Last weekend, on the eve of Remembrance Day, a young man stood proudly to attention at Wembley Stadium as he led a tribute to the fallen. At the age of 23 years and 299 days Eric Dier became the fifth youngest player to captain England; the legendary Bobby Moore being the youngest at 22 years and 47 days in 1963.
What made the occasion more poignant was that Eric’s grandfather Ted Croker, secretary of the Football Association from 1973 to 1989, was an RAF pilot during WW2 and sustained injuries in a crash which hampered his later football career.
Sixteen years ago, Eric Dier moved to the Algarve as a seven-year-old after his mother Louise was offered a job running the hospitality programme at the 2004 EURO Championships.
The young protégé showed great potential as he attended the International School before the family later moved to Lisbon where Dier was spotted by the world-famous Sporting Lisbon Academy that has nurtured such talent as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Luís Figo.
Young Dier, who received a good grounding both as a player and a human being, said then: “Sporting pride themselves on bringing you up as a polite and respectful person. They would never get angry with you if you missed a pass, but they would do if you were disrespectful to someone.”
He soon became immersed in the Portuguese culture and language: “When I moved to the Sporting Academy and went to a Portuguese school, my mum said she was worried because my Portuguese was getting better than my English!”
The self-assured young man was approached by the Portuguese Football Federation to play for Portugal but, fortunately for England, he decided that his future lay with his native country.
Three years ago, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur on a five-year contract for a fee of £4 million. He made his debut for the England senior team against Spain two years ago and current manager Gareth Southgate had no hesitation in handing him the captain’s armband against the World Champions.
“Eric is an established player in the side now,” said Southgate. “He plays with maturity and intelligence and understands the game really well. He is also a great role model. His approach to everything is very professional. He hardly ever misses a game and plays in an unselfish manner.”
Southgate went to say: “I think he can be even more of a leader than he currently is, and I am hoping giving him this reward and responsibility will also bring even more out of him as well. He has the respect of everybody because of the way he is. He connects well with the whole group. He is a really top professional.”
Dier led the young England team with style and panache as they held Germany to a goalless draw with the media praising the young stars of tomorrow.
By CHRIS WRIGHT