Eric Dier is loving the Gareth Southgate era, and the new feeling that an England manager finally has a clear idea about how he wants the team to play. The muddled thinking of the Roy Hodgson years feels a long time ago.
What Dier wants more than anything else from a manager is conviction. That is what he gets every week from Mauricio Pochettino, a man who has religious faith in his own philosophy, and will never bend from it. With England, though, things have not always been that simple. Dier came into an England team which was unsure of its self and its direction, whether it wanted to be a passing side or not. Dier did not mention Roy Hodgson by name but he spoke positively about Southgate and Sam Allardyce in their commitment to their own approaches, and those are the only three England managers he has played for.
But this England team, four games into the Southgate tenure, is committed to their own approach. They do not change course mid-match or when things get tough. That is why Dier enjoys playing for England so much now, and why he encourages supporters to do the same. It is why he was still smiling on Tuesday night, after England had thrown away their 2-0 lead against Spain.
“I enjoyed that, it was good fun, apart from the end,” Dier said. “That’s what England, the players and the fans, need to do. Everyone needs to enjoy it a bit more. Instead of the worrying feeling, people need to enjoy it more, instead of always worrying.”
Enjoyment means forgetting about the results for now and focusing on playing football in England’s own new style. “For me that’s the most important thing, no matter what the result is,” Dier said. “To be honest, I don’t care what the result is. I want us to have a style of play, and a way of playing, and to stick to it.”
England vs Spain player ratings
England vs Spain player ratings
1/22 Joe Hart – 6 out of 10
Didn’t see much of the ball at all and had very little to do from a blunted Spain attack.
2/22 Danny Rose – 7 out of 10
Attacked and defended well down the action-packed left flank but picked up a silly yellow.
3/22 Nathaniel Clyne – 7 out of 10
Attacked well down the right-hand side and didn’t see much coming his direction in the way of defending.
4/22 Gary Cahill – 7 out of 10
Solid and controlled the back line well throughout, albeit it with little threat coming his way.
5/22 John Stones – 6 out of 10
Still not looking like a settling presence and played one awful pass to Dier which nearly put caused Spain to win the ball in a dangerous area.
6/22 Jordan Henderson – 7 out of 10
Won the midfield battle with Busquets and looked comfortable with the armband on yet again.
7/22 Eric Dier – 7 out of 10
Needed to be strong in the tackle to stop Stones’ poor pass from being a costly one.
8/22 Raheem Sterling – 9 out of 10
Carvajal will wake up in a fit of sweats tonight with memories of what Sterling did to him. Tortured the Spanish defence and was brilliant throughout.
9/22 Adam Lallana – 8 out of 10
Flawless in the 24 minutes he played before going off injured. His teasing cross drew the penalty and he converted it brilliantly.
10/22 Jesse Lingard – 7 out of 10
Started strongly in the No 10 role but faded as the game went on. His pace was always a threat though.
11/22 Jamie Vardy – 9 out of 10
Was clever in winning the penalty and luring Reina’s challenge and there was no one stopping him getting his head on the ball from his goal. Good celebration too.
12/22 Pepe Reina – 5 out of 10
Was made to look like a fool by Vardy for the penalty in the first half but saved well from Henderson in the second.
13/22 Cesar Azpilicueta – 6 out of 10
Attacked well down the left and avoided most of England’s attacking threat, which was all down the other channel.
14/22 Inigo Martinez – 5 out of 10
Got a cynical yellow for a challenge on Walcott and didn’t really look comfortable.
15/22 Nacho – 5 out of 10
Another to struggle with England’s attack and was left chasing shadows.
16/22 Dani Carvajal – 5 out of 10
Struggled with the pace of Sterling, Lingard and Vardy throughout and didn’t manage to get forward as he would have liked.
17/22 Sergio Busquets – 5 out of 10
Failed to stem the midfield flow as he usually does for Barca and was another to struggle with England’s pace.
18/22 Thiago Alcantara – 6 out of 10
Played in a slightly deeper role and looked classy in everything he did – although failed to create anything of any substance.
19/22 Vitolo – 4 out of 10
Had a shot in the first half which he dragged wide but had a tough evening at Wembley.
20/22 Juan Mata – 5 out of 10
Exchanged a couple of neat passes with Silva but failed to create anything of note.
21/22 David Silva – 6 out of 10
The leader of the team on the night and did all he could to get Spain in it.
22/22 Artiz Aduriz – 4 out of 10
Barely saw the ball and wasted a good chance in the first half with an under-hit pass to Vitolo.
This why Dier is enjoying playing under Southgate far more than under Hodgson, when England jumped from one approach to another without ever quite knowing what they were trying to do, or ever believing in it. “Win, lose or draw I’ll be happy, as long as we stick to a way of playing and believe in it 100 per cent,” Dier said. “That’s what we’ve been doing over these four games now. And I think here you could see it better than in the other three. We had a way, we stuck to it, and we got our rewards up until the end.”
It has not always been like this. Dier did not mention Hodgson by name but he did say that England, in the past, had been too “half-hearted” with no real commitment to any style of play. “Sam [Allardyce] had a way of playing and he stuck to it, and he believed in it 100 per cent,” Dier said. “Gareth as well. But I think at times, it has been half-hearted. Play out, and then you lose the ball playing out, and you want to go long, and then you go long, and it’s ‘why don’t you play out’? You either do it or you don’t for me.”
This is the same ambitious Southgate who coached Dier at Under-21s, and the Spurs man is pleased to still work with him. “He is still the same person,” Dier said. “That’s the most important thing, that people don’t change, they stick to their beliefs. I think what he’s done over the four games is obvious.”Reuse content