Dyer in debt to Souness era

Fall and rise of a Toon idol
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The Independent Online

As starts to a new relationship go, there were undoubtedly better ways for Kieron Dyer to introduce himself to Graeme Souness than a trip to the police station to receive a caution for urinating in the street. Dyer, the perceived leader of Newcastle's talented but wayward Brat Pack, was already Public Enemy No 1 at Newcastle United following his refusal to play on the right wing on the opening day of the season at Middlesbrough.

As starts to a new relationship go, there were undoubtedly better ways for Kieron Dyer to introduce himself to Graeme Souness than a trip to the police station to receive a caution for urinating in the street. Dyer, the perceived leader of Newcastle's talented but wayward Brat Pack, was already Public Enemy No 1 at Newcastle United following his refusal to play on the right wing on the opening day of the season at Middlesbrough.

Everyone, from ex-players to supporters, had vehemently demanded his departure, and it was assumed that Souness, a manager who does not generally share his predecessor Sir Bobby Robson's forgiving nature, would be the ideal man to send him on his way. Yet a relationship which began with a spot of quality time in an interview room with two uniformed officers as chaperones has proven to be an unlikely love story in a typically turbulent season on Tyneside.

"When Alan was on the bench for Sir Bobby's last game at Aston Villa, I wasn't even a sub," reflected Dyer as he prepared for this afternoon's lunchtime Premiership meeting with Bolton Wanderers. "The transfer window was open and I was unsure as to whether I had a future here. I thought I might be sold.

"Then the new manager came in and said before he made a decision he wanted to see me play. The first time he spoke to me was when we had the trip to the police station, which was a bit of a nightmare. He was straightforward and said to me, 'If anything happens like this again, I will bin you'. He laid down the law straight away, and the rest is history."

Souness has not been the only person connected with Newcastle to have afforded Dyer a second chance. Against Heerenveen on Thursday night, the same supporters who once booed his every touch gave the England midfielder a standing ovation as he left the pitch at the end of a first half in which he ran the Dutch ragged. Significantly, it was not the first time under Souness that such a warm response had been directed at the 26-year-old. "I've been delighted with the way it's gone over the past month or so," said Dyer. "It's all about confidence, and I've managed to get that back. It has shown in my performances on the pitch.

"The new manager has been very good for me. He played me when there were a lot of people who didn't want me to be played. I'll always be grateful to him for that. Another manager could have come in and wanted to win the fans over. It would have been easy not to pick me.

"I get support in the street now. The fans have been as good as gold. I let them down and, rightly so, they turned against me. But I have got my head down and the majority have given me a second chance."

However, while Dyer has regained the affections of the Toon Army, it has not been as smooth for Souness. With his side a goal down at half-time in last week's first leg of their Uefa Cup tie against Heerenveen, Souness and his chairman, Freddie Shepherd, were less-than-politely asked to find new employment by the travelling supporters. But one fightback and a morale-boosting FA Cup win over Chelsea later and the storm clouds have been replaced by rays of optimism.

Newcastle, despite their lowly position of 12th in the Premiership, entertain Bolton on the back of just one defeat in 11 games. "Our League position is not good enough and we need to start climbing the table, but we still have a lot to play for this season," said Dyer, who has even suggested he is interested in extending his contract, which has 18 months left to run. "We can win something this season. We had bad luck in the FA Cup last season. That has changed. We just want to avoid Man U and go all the way."

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