Football: Rich belief in Dyer's traits

Trevor Haylett talks to the hottest young property on Portman Road
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The Independent Online
KIERON DYER feels it might be time to leave Portman Road and is casting around to see what's on offer elsewhere. It's a state of affairs guaranteed to bring despair to every Ipswich supporter were it not for the fact that when this talented youngster declares his wish for new surroundings he is talking property and not Premiership.

So close is the Ipswich ground to the home he shares with his mum and sister that Dyer can see the floodlights from his bedroom window. As a boy he heard the roar of the crowd and wondered where his talent would lead him, though the preference then was to play for Liverpool; Anfield a more attractive proposition than the club on his doorstep who had just lost their place among the elite.

Now the 20-year-old is one of a number of starlets the Suffolk side have entrusted with the task of reclaiming the adventurous spirit of Bobby Robson's homespun heroes from the late Seventies and early Eighties. The next seven days will signpost their readiness to meet that challenge: at Sunderland today Ipswich will be hoping to show they are next in line behind the First Division leaders to gain an automatic promotion place while on Saturday they go to Everton in the FA Cup.

They are two tough proving grounds for a young man whose smooth midfield skills have already won him accolades and international recognition. John Wark, the stalwart campaigner who grew up at Portman Road alongside established internationals such as Paul Mariner and Terry Butcher, and who now works as a scout for George Burley, describes Dyer as the most talented player he has seen in an Ipswich shirt.

He also made an early impact with Peter Taylor, the Under-21 manager who first saw him in action for England Youths in the mini World Cup which took place in Malaysia two summers ago and who was immediately taken by both his confidence and easy running style.

"At the start of the following season I named Kieron in the Under-21 squad and before the Moldova international he played in a practice match against the senior side," Taylor said. "Early on in the game Glenn Hoddle turned to me and remarked how much he liked the look of him.

"For a lot of promising kids the second season is the big test but whenever I've seen Kieron recently he has strolled through games. He has looked so assured and always appears to have a lot of time on his hands."

A step up to Hoddle's seniors is not thought to be far away; many inside Portman Road believe it will come as early as next month's friendly with France. Dyer is a young man in a hurry, as befits his recent purchase of a Mercedes sports car and the desire to buy his own home, but he signed a new four-year contract only last summer and insists the Premiership can wait.

Recent speculation linked him with a move to Newcastle and gave him the label of "six million pound man" inside the Ipswich dressing-room. "I told them it should be seven million but really I try not to take notice of transfer talk," said Dyer. "The manager has said he doesn't have to sell any of his young players and we are only focused on gaining promotion."

The goalkeeper Richard Wright is another priceless asset and his close friendship with Dyer dates back to pre-teen days when they were the shining lights in the Whitton Sports boys team which also included the young Arsenal defender Matthew Upson. "I played up front then and Richard had such a kick on him that he used to clear the defenders and give me the chance to run on and score."

Goals have been more scarce on the first-team stage and it was only last month that Dyer scored for the first time at Portman Road (having claimed seven away from home).

Burley, his manager at Ipswich, believes he will soon start finding the net on a regular basis and says the fourth-round tie at Goodison will bring out the best in him. "Kieron has already shown that he can handle the next challenge," he said, "and there's no limit to what he can achieve."