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Kieron: One of Suffolk's Greatest Talents, Ill-Served by Dire Headlines
Written by Superfrans on Sunday, 4th Aug 2013 12:58

Immediately after the confirmation last week by Kieron Dyer that he was retiring this summer, little was said outside of Suffolk about his departure from the game. It is a story which leaked out with relatively little fanfare, for a former England international and Premiership stalwart of more than a decade.

Until the other day, that is, and a Guardian piece labelling him as an average, overpaid footballer - "a wasted talent and poster boy for English game's excesses".

It is a caricature which is hugely unfair on Dyer, who (while no Gary Lineker) is among the most talented players to emerge from England in the past 20 years - and who has been dealt some cruel cards over that period. 

Now aged 34, Dyer has spent 17 years since his debut as a 17-year-old plying his trade in the Premiership, gathering 33 caps for four different England managers - after a series of splendid early cameos on the international stage. There is no doubt he should have played more games than the 323-odd club appearances he chalked up too, especially when you consider that he had 98 appearances for ITFC under his belt before he was even 21. 

But Dyer didn't make too few appearances because he fell out of favour with managers, or because he went on strike to force a move. He never made an active choice to sit in reserve teams for months on end, just to draw his salary. He never found himself on a string of suspensions because of bad behaviour. His body simply began to give up on him. 

Unlike some other top level footballers, his keenness to continue playing the game led him to Championship clubs such as Middlesbrough and Ipswich to get games. Not for him the refusal to drop down from the Premier League, lower divisions were never above him. *cough* Michael Owen *cough*

Dyer was a player who never looked happier than when he was on the pitch. His early performances for Ipswich are fondly remembered by those who saw them, for his heart and enthusiasm as much as for his skill. It is saying something at a club which blooded the likes of John Wark, Kevin Beattie, George Burley, Darren Bent, Connor Wickham and Jason Dozzell as teenagers, that Dyer was among the best teenagers we have ever fielded. 

He wasn't a player who looked reluctant to be on the pitch. He was a player who was always full of energy (injury permitting) and willingness to play. His greatest failure, perhaps, is the idea that he has always been a big kid, with a Gascoigne-like love for the game. Like Gascoigne, this passion for is perhaps best illustrated by the tears which he shed on the Portman Road pitch after failing to help Town achieve promotion in the 1999 play-offs.

Dyer's injuries have been tragic for the career of one of England's most talented players over two decades. Ultimately, Dyer's body gave up on him, his injuries reaching chronic levels following a double leg fracture early in his West Ham career, which sidelined him for 17 months. This was followed by two further injuries which West Ham failed to correctly diagnose (keeping him out for a further year) and David Sullivan's crass suggestion that he ought to retire through injury aged 31, as a transparent attempt to get him off the wage bill. 

Of course, as a young man (suddenly enjoying untold wealth) Dyer had his moments. There are inevitable stories about burning twenties in an Ipswich bar (apparently witnessed by a crowd big enough to fill Portman Road, given the number of claimed first-hand witnesses), not to mention the buying of flash watches and expensive cars. But these are stories from the early period of high wages for young players, when teenagers were first becoming millionaires overnight. 

In contrast to such tales, only Town fans (it seems) are aware of Dyer's financial support over several years of the ITFC academy, of his regular visits to the training ground at Playford Road, to youth matches when he has been back in Suffolk. Last week, he was back again helping support the launch of ITFC's Academy Association. 

Now he has taken the decision to retire. Despite lucrative offers to play in Dubai and the US, he has decided to hang up his boots and return home to Suffolk, so he can stay close to his family.

Dyer isn't the greatest player in Ipswich's grand history, but he is certainly up there - perhaps one of the few figures from the past 20 years with even a tiny chance of making the all-time Ipswich Town first 15. 

Like many other Town fans, I'm sure, I look forward to seeing the fella around Portman Road again over the coming months. 

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LeighOnSeaBlue added 13:46 - Aug 4
You should forward this article to the journo at the Guardian. Yes in his early days he was a bit of a flash boy but if it wasn't for the injuries he would have gone down as a very special player for club and country


SE1blue added 14:03 - Aug 4
Excellent blog Superfranz, it's really good to hear the other side of a story told.

Dyer was one of those players who, just because of his talents alone, would make you buy a match ticket every Saturday. He would find passes or create opportunities that not only the opposition defence wouldn't predict, but the 22,000 in Portman Road wouldn't spot either until it resulted in a goal. When you watch Ipswich teams who have run out of ideas in matches, that's when you find yourself turning to your mate and saying "We need a Kieron".

I met him in a pub in Ipswich the night we had failed in the playoffs again. Spotting a group of half a dozen of us out in Town shirts, he came over and bought us all he drink because he wanted to say "Sorry, we didn't do it for you". We all felt more sorry for him that his talents weren't going up to a bigger a stage. There aren't many that would do that under the circumstances...

Fatcatevans added 15:03 - Aug 4
I'm not sure I subscribe to this love fest. a talented player no doubt but one of the all time top town 15 players.? Absolutely not.

Superfrans added 18:52 - Aug 4
Factevans. I didn't say he was, I said he was the one of the few with even a tiny chance. It is a big call, I know.

Fatcatevans added 20:10 - Aug 4
Sure but not even a tiny chance imo

Blue041273 added 21:06 - Aug 4
Cracking blog. Agree with every word. K will be remembered as a player with a style and panache that few in his era could ever match. For me he was always an Ipswich boy abroad. Gone from the shirt but never forgotten. He epitomised the GB days. TWTD.

HarryfromBath added 10:44 - Aug 5
Hugely enjoyable read, and it brought back memories of the young trail blazer causing chaos on the pitch in his early days under George Burley.

Every anecdote I have ever read about the man on this website talks about a quiet decent person in everyday life, and quite divorced from the caricature portrayed in the Guardian article.

Solly added 10:46 - Aug 5
Brilliant blog, people often forget that he did love playing football. I heard a story that he broke down in tears when he was close to coming back from the double leg fracture, but his body let go again. As an aside though, I liked the Guardian article. I don't think it was quite as negative as portrayed, more of a general look at football's excesses of the past fifteen years. £80k a week at West Ham was undeniably ludicrous.

commuterblue added 13:36 - Aug 5
Good blog, although a bit unfair on Michael Owen. It takes bigger balls than I have to circulate a demo of his abilities as he did before when his contract was up at Newcastle. He must have known he'd get a roasting by the media, and not that big a chance of having a club like Utd come in for him. (And after Owens history Stoke is moving down the leagues)


commuterblue added 13:37 - Aug 5
I do think there is a comparison with Michael Owen, but it is more one where both players were overplayed at the beginning of their career, by clubs that really needed them to perform as regularly as older more developed athletes.
Both then suffered from continual problems for the rest of their career.

sucrePB1 added 15:41 - Aug 5
top player

Superfrans added 17:14 - Aug 5
Thanks for the kind comments, all. Just to pick up on the Owen comparison - my point really was his avowed refusal to drop down from the Prem. I have always had time for Owen, who comes across as a decent bloke. What I have found disappointing though are his comments, first voiced several years ago, that he would never consider dropping down the divisions towards the end of his career. I would always like to see big name, internationally renowned players such as Owen give something back to the game by playing at a lower level, if possible - rather than see it as being rather beneath them. Players as great as Bobby Moore, George Best, Bobby Charlton and others have played at lower levels (not always because they played in relegated teams). And we all saw the excitement that Roy Keane generated when he came to us as a manager. Imagine if Owen, or Beckham, or Shearer etc thought to step down to play even for just a season at a smaller club towards the end of their careers. It would be a fantastic thing.

He would have been a superstar at a lower level such as the Championship, someone who would drawn big crowds and

cooper4england added 20:58 - Aug 5
Mentioning players prepared to drop down always makes me think of Sheringham. Did Col U play him a fortune or did he do it for the love of the game. With his football brain it must have been frustrating making the killer path and having some lesser player shouting "I want it to feet"!!!

Good blog. Love the comment about filling Portman Road with people who witnessed KD burn a £50 note. Same 20,000 odd also saw Dozzell do it, Chopra leave a bookies, Muhren and Thijssen kissing (Think of Franz's tash and the Blue Oyster Bar!) and Stewart "entertaining" Reuser's/Holland's/Clapham's wife.

Blue041273 added 22:26 - Aug 5

Am finding it difficult to fully understand your comments.

I think, and I'm sure many would agree, Teddy Sheringham just wanted to play. Football was his 'raison d'être''. Col U paid him well, no doubt, but after his time in the Premiership I would doubt that he was strapped for cash. I agree that many players won't be interested in playing at lower levels but you only need to look at Titus Bramble who has stated many times that he would like to play again for Ipswich in the twilight of his career. Money may not be the driving force here. Sure his Championship teammates may not match the class of the higher leagues but it is surely the pleasure of playing which drives these players when time is called on their careers at the top level.

However I do like your somewhat cynical and comical take on the rumours which have come out of PR over the years. Most amusing albeit being pretty close to being libelous it must be said.

cooper4england added 08:09 - Aug 6
Thanks for your comments and apologies if somewhat disjointed. I meant that Sheringham was renowned as having one of the greatest of footballing brains. The step down from the elite of World football to Div 1 must have been noticeable to him. Playing the defence splitting pass which previously Rooney, Shearer et al would already be making the run for would probably not always be spotted at a lower level. As you state with his previous wealth I also fully admire TS willingness to drop a few levels for the love of the game but it must be frustrating for some players. I do have some sympathies for players like Owen who decide not to do so. At ITFC we have experienced many a ex-prem player who perhaps should have considered retirement before stepping down.

As for being libellous it was meant to be a send up of exactly the fables that SuperFranz refers to. My sincere apologies for any offence if I failed to do this.

Matbro23 added 19:09 - Aug 13
Would have got in 15 as one of the best local lads to make it.

Marshalls_Mullet added 09:46 - Aug 14
Michael Owen dropped down from the Prem really when he signed for Man Utd reserves.

He just didnt realise it, ha.

brendanh added 09:36 - Aug 20

monty_radio added 22:59 - Aug 28
Agree with general tenor here Superfranz. Would that a fit young Dyer were available to us now.

Still, must take issue with Dyer as being in top 15. Apart from the teenagers you already name, there were the likes of Mills, Talbot, Osman, Viljoen, Whymark, Brazil, Wright.
And if you add in the greats we brought in rather than reared e.g. Crawford, Johnson, Cooper, Hunter, Mariner, Muhren, Woods etc - Kieron might squeak in at around number 30 in the all-time list. Very good player though.
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