When England announced their Under-21 squad for Tuesday's friendly against Scotland in Sheffield there was a new name on the list which had some people scratching their heads.
Eric Dier is a virtual unknown in the country where he was born and spent his early years, but the defender, who has risen through the ranks with Sporting Clube de Portugal, is soon to announce himself in his native land. The grandson of former English Football Association (FA) secretary Ted Croker, Dier left his Cheltenham home aged ten when his parents opted to stay in Portugal following their involvement working at UEFA EURO 2004. His talent was immediately spotted and he was swiftly signed up to the Sporting academy.
A fluent Portuguese speaker, Dier progressed well and benefited from an 18-month loan spell with Everton FC before returning to Lisbon last summer and making his Sporting bow in November's 1-0 home win against SC Braga – where he provided an assist. "It was all very quick," said the 19-year-old of his debut. "[Frank] Vercauteren [then Sporting coach] didn't say I was going to play until a few moments before the match. [Goalkeeper] Rui Patrício told me I should enjoy it because we only make one debut in our lives. That's what I did."
Since then Dier has played at right-back, centre-back and as a defensive midfielder for the Lions, and it is the deep-lying midfield role he appears to be making his own. "I just want to play, no matter the position," he said towards the end of last season. A strong and versatile presence with a timely tackle, the Englishman is comfortable with the ball at his feet and possesses an eye for a pass – which resulted in him being shifted out of defence.
As for the future, Dier is adamant he is at the right club to develop his obvious talent. "I am only 19, I am very young and Sporting is the right club for me right now," said the veteran of England's recent FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign in Turkey. "I don't think about anything else. I want to win trophies and if one day I leave Sporting I want to do it with silverware. If I don't, I want to win titles here until the end of my career. That is my first goal, to win trophies. Then my objective is to play at the top level in England in the Premier League. That's my dream and ambition."
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