England U19s and Sporting Lisbon man talks us through his varied career so far.
By Nicholas Veevers in Bolton
For England U19s defender Eric Dier, the road to international football has taken on a completely different path to that of his squad-mates, who he has joined for the first time this week as the Young Lions aim to reach the European Championship Finals.
The 18-year-old has an interesting story to tell and an intriguing link to England’s football past to boot.
Born in Cheltenham in 1994, Dier spent his early years in England but at the age of six, his parents made the move to live in Portugal and Dier grew up on the coast just to the west of Lisbon.
It was there where Dier’s formative years of learning the game took place and at the age of 12, he was signed by Sporting Lisbon’s Academy and moved to the capital to continue his football education.
“It’s been great for me and it’s obviously something completely different to everyone else here, it’s a different country, a different culture and a different way of playing football,” explained Dier, whose first England cap came at U18 level against Slovakia last year.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever really known, growing up there and starting to play football there, I’ve learnt different things and seen things differently.
“I moved to Portugal when I was six, so I’ve been there more than I have in England, but I still class myself as English.
“Until I turned 12, I was at an international school over there which was English-speaking, so I was living in Portugal, but my whole life was pretty much English and I knew little bits of the language.
"But when I moved to Sporting’s Academy to live, that’s when I went to Portuguese school and was around Portuguese people all day so I learnt the language and I’m now fluent.
“It’s great to have a second language and in the future you never know what’s going to happen, but it’s a great tool to have.”
Dier caught the eye playing in Sporting’s Academy teams from an early age, and to aid in his development, the Portuguese giants decided to allow him to return to his homeland and join Everton on an ‘Academy Loan’ in January 2011, the next step in his already varied career.
He has spent the last season and a half with the Goodison Park club’s Academy and reserve team, which he feels has certainly supplemented his experience and ability ahead of his return to Sporting for pre-season later this year.
“Moving to Everton for the last season and a half, I’ve learnt lots of new things that I wouldn’t ever have seen in Portugal,” he added.
“The way I see it, is that I’ve experienced two different cultures and I hope that can only be a benefit.
“I’m still a Sporting Lisbon player at the moment, but I don’t know what the plans are yet. I’ll be back there for pre-season and we’ll see what happens.”
The story doesn’t end there either.
Dier’s grandfather was the former FA Secretary Ted Croker, who led the organisation between 1973 and 1989 and oversaw such issues as the creation of the Community Shield (then the Charity Shield) and the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters.
“Ted Croker was my mum’s dad,” he explained. “I never met him because he passed away a year or so before I was born, so that was a shame because I would’ve loved to have met him. My mum says he was a really great man.
“Because of my grandad, I get a bit more publicity maybe, but hopefully I can make my own story myself.”
There will be more from Eric on TheFA.com on Wednesday, as he looks towards the Switzerland game and also how he chose to represent England over Portugal.
Tickets for Wednesday’s game with Switzerland at Deepdale cost £3 for adults and £1 for concessions and are available on the night.
The game is also being streamed live and for free on FATV from around 7.15pm so be sure to tune in if you can’t make it along to support the lads in person.