Newcastle United FC and England's Kieron Dyer seems to have been an established name for so long that it is something of a surprise to discover he does not turn 24 until the end of December.
Taste of the World Cup
The young midfield player, who arrived at St James' Park in 1999 in a €9.5m switch from Ipswich Town FC, has already had a taste of FIFA World Cup football with England after making three substitute appearances in Korea/Japan. Now, after five appearances in Newcastle's successful first group stage campaign, he is keen to expand his footballing education in the rarefied atmosphere of the UEFA Champions League.
'Good for my education'
"The spirit is extremely high," he told uefa.com on the eve of Wednesday's match against Internazionale FC at St James' Park. "
We respect the opposition but we're really confident that we can get the second part of the campaign off to a good start. I just want to be involved in massive games and this season with Newcastle and with England we've got some big games coming up. I'm thankful that at Newcastle I've got that platform, it's good for my football education."
Newcastle left it late to reach the second group stage, winning their last three games to qualify having reached the halfway mark without a point, a fact that is not lost on Dyer. "It sums up Newcastle United," he said. "We have this unpredictable feeling about ourselves. But to lose three then win our next three and qualify is a testament to everyone involved with the club." Dyer is also quick to praise the club's fans for their role in spurring the players on. "It's a bit of a cliché but it's true, the fans are like an extra man," he said. "They've been brilliant this season. They step up the volume and our whole tempo of playing changes."
Inter travel to Tyneside with a big reputation, and a host of star names, and Dyer is particularly keen to see two of them in action. "Their whole team is full of international players, but I like [Javier] Zanetti," he said. "There's a lot of talk that Cafu's the best right-back in the world but I think Zanetti is up there with him. Also, from a personal point of view, England are going to play Turkey in the [UEFA] European Championship qualifying campaign and inter have a young midfielder in Emre [Belözoglu] who I hope plays because it would be good to pit my wits against him."
In the past injuries have intervened to leave Dyer kicking his heels on the sidelines, but he is confident that Newcastle are now more equipped to rest him when necessary. "The good thing this season is that we have a massive squad," he explained. "There were times last season when I was playing a lot of games on empty. This season I don't think that will be the case." A fully fit Kieron Dyer is certainly a handful for any side - Inter, and Europe, have been warned.
You will be able to listen to the full interview with Kieron Dyer on the uefa.com magazine show on match pass from 17.00 CET this Friday.