|Oh Kieron! The Best May Be Still to Come!|
Written by TimS on Saturday, 24th Mar 2018 20:37
Review of Kieron Dyer (2018) Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late. My Story with Oliver Holt. Headline Publishing
If you put pen to paper or your fingers to keyboard, it is difficult to write about Ipswich Town Football Club without thinking about the way our club is dramatically drifting in 2018 within a season that desperately needs to end.
I was looking forward to reading this book from Kieron Dyer as a diversion to current times. I also wanted to enjoy a bit of nostalgia for my generation. For someone born in 1980, I can't remember the events in 1978 or 1981 and I have occasionally wondered whether anything else can be written about those cup finals. With Dyer's book, I wanted to read something about my time.
Time will play tricks with your mind. Players may become legends after they have left Portman Road. Some players become merely ordinary as their skills are taken over by new stars.
I still remember it was beyond frustrating to witness Town failing at the play-off hurdles in the late 1990s. I remember the miserable train journeys through the late night gloom of Bentley level crossing, Manningtree and the Ardleigh level crossing back to Colchester realising Town's Premiership dreams were still at the red light. It would be Barnsley and Millwall back to Portman Road rather than Arsenal or Manchester United. However, those play-offs seem like a romantic paradise compared to the desert of today.
Twenty years on, I hate the play-offs but the matches taught me that football did not always give what you wanted in life. I also began to realise that my feet just did not have any ability to kick a ball, but I was living out my football dreams in Kieron Dyer. We are about the same age, give a year. He was a local lad from Ipswich.
The late 90s gave you the impression that all top-drawer footballers were mythical gods born and raised in a parallel universe away from reality with swash buckling names. They had to be called Zola, Di Matteo or Cantona; born at the altar of football genius. Raul would not know where Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre was, enjoy the wave machine at Crown Pools, or know that the Number eight bus went to Asda. Dyer probably did and watching him play made this club - my local club, my family club, Ipswich's club - seem real; a club that could not be picked up and dumped anywhere else in the UK.
I was reading this book mostly on trains and station platforms wrestling with tube journeys and missing train connections. I was hoping for a Rock 'n' Roll Years style of book allowing me to nostalgically transfer myself back to the endless sunny days of 1997 and 1998. I did not quite get that from reading this book. I might have been naive.
From early on in this book, it is apparent that this book is an occasionally difficult read. Chapter two is the most difficult to read and I was left marveling at the bravery of Dyer for being willing to be so open about the abuse that he suffered at a relative's house in Whitton. That morning reading the chapter whilst on platform one at Harrow and Wealdstone Station was sobering. I could feel Dyer's pain.
This book has a difficult job to satisfy many audiences. It would be a shame for Town fans to stop reading this book when Dyer talks about his transfer to Newcastle. I can remember thinking about the transfer whilst selling ice creams from a kiosk in a local zoo on a balmy Saturday afternoon in June.
Maybe the first link between me and the club had been broken that summer in 1999. It was a big move for Dyer but it is difficult to know from reading this book whether he actually looks back on that time on Tyneside with any happiness.
His relationship with Sir Bobby Robson is a constant throughout these chapters. It seems that Dyer loves the great man and he is devastated to be blamed by certain quarters as one of the reasons for Sir Bobby to be sacked in 2004.
Maybe I just did not read the right papers during the last 20 years but I cannot remember the many newspaper scandals that litter Dyer's career and this book. I had no idea about an incident about the Grosvenor House incident in 2003 or the Ayia Napa episode at the turn of the Millennium. Life seemed to be played to excess for Dyer in Newcastle. It may have been fun at the time but Dyer seems remorseful about the over-the-top nature of his life.
Dyer became linked to injuries and major Injuries become a feature from the middle of the book onwards and I found the last two chapters some of the most difficult to read, when Dyer starts to become a human version of a car that is on its last wheels, desperately trying to start, spluttering but backfiring to a sorry standstill.
After finishing this book, I was left thinking that Dyer could have achieved so much more on the field; I suspect that he probably knows that too. He is clutching at so many straws by the end to play more than a few minutes of a game, Dyer might as well have tried his luck in a harvested field.
The glimmer of hope is that he is now involved with the Town's youth team. The words about Dyer's time on I'm A Celebrity were light relief and obviously gave him much enjoyment; not that interesting to me, because I am more anxious for our club to involve our key players of the past rather than leave them to sit of TV sofas, or the golf courses.
This is not a normal football book. I have done many football book reviews down the years and some accounts are just an effortless trail from one glory moment to another. Some books are nothing more than a picture chronology; Fernando Torres pictured at his city apartment chilling out with some paella - you know the sort of thing!
Kieron Dyer's book is raw. He has not had it easy. It is uncompromising but not especially full of scandal. Dyer is in confessional mood and certain chapters hurt your senses but it is a book that must be read by Town fans. We have to look after our own. I hope this player from my generation can truly succeed in nurturing the next generation of Ipswich talent and maybe become a first team manager one day. The best may still be yet to come!
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