Dier goes from Spurs stand-in to his coun­try’s best an­chor­man

Eng­land owe great debt to Po­chet­tino for tak­ing a gam­ble on young­ster in the hold­ing po­si­tion

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL - Paul Hay­ward

Maybe Eng­land can now stop ask­ing where the next Owen Har­g­reaves might come from

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s un­of­fi­cial role as the shadow Eng­land man­ager was en­hanced when Eric Dier rose to head the win­ner in a 3-2 come­back win shaped by Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur. The con­ver­sion of Dier from de­fender to de­fen­sive mid­fielder is one of many div­i­dends for Roy Hodg­son from the re­nais­sance at Spurs.

While Harry Kane and Dele Alli were the more glam­orous rep­re­sen­ta­tives here of Po­chet­tino’s work, Dier may have solved a na­tional man­power deficit. When Spurs elected to ex­per­i­ment with this 22-year-old from Chel­tenham via Por­tu­gal in a pre-sea­son friendly against Real Madrid, fans of the club thought they had sim­ply failed to sign a proper screen­ing player. In­stead, Po­chet­tino backed a hunch that looks like car­ry­ing Dier to a start­ing role at Euro 2016.

That pow­er­ful, de­ci­sive header in the dy­ing mo­ments of an en­cour­ag­ing night in Ber­lin was not some lucky goal from a spec­u­la­tive set-piece. Dier planned it. “I’d found my­self free a cou­ple of times be­cause they ob­vi­ously mark zon­ally, which I’m not used to, re­ally, in Eng­land,” he said. “Jor­dan [Hen­der­son] was putting them to the back post, so I asked him be­fore­hand if he’d put one to the front post. He put it right on the spot, so it made it easy for me.”

In­tel­li­gence is an ob­vi­ous at­tribute of Dier’s work. A reser­va­tion is that Eng­land’s 4-3-3 for­ma­tion asks too much of him against a world-class cen­tral mid­field unit of the sort Ger­many are able to sum­mon ( Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil). But Dier coped won­der­fully with that heavy work­load and Eng­land are now start­ing to feel they may have a hold­ing mid­fielder of in­ter­na­tional cal­i­bre.

Dier said: “Me and a lot of the other boys are young lads, so to play against these es­tab­lished play­ers – they’re very, very good play­ers – was bril­liant, to test our­selves. It’s very en­joy­able but ob­vi­ously it’s go­ing to be hard work at times be­cause no mat­ter how good you are, how well you play, how good you are tac­ti­cally, they’re go­ing to cre­ate chances and they are go­ing to have op­por­tu­ni­ties. I think we lim­ited them and we did well with that.”

The ge­n­e­sis of Dier’s con­ver­sion was last Au­gust, when Po­chet­tino an­nounced: “I made that de­ci­sion from the start of pre-sea­son. He played well in mid­field and was com­fort­able in that po­si­tion. He played it be­fore. In Por­tu­gal [where he grew up] they play like a cen­tre-back or hold­ing mid­fielder. His skill is he can play in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions in the pitch.”

“Ob­vi­ously, us Spurs boys know how lucky we are to have him be­cause he’s been bril­liant for us,” Dier says of Po­chet­tino. “He de­mands a lot of us, al­ways want­ing us to im­prove. That’s what’s put us in the po­si­tion we’re in now, so we’re ob­vi­ously very grate­ful to him and we want to re­pay him.

“Ev­ery­one gets a bit ex­cited with the whole youth thing, but I think at our club the man­ager won’t just play any young­ster. You’ve got to de­serve it. If you de­serve it, then he’ll give you your chance.”

Few at Spurs shared the man­ager’s en­thu­si­asm for this ap­par­ently hole-plug­ging switch but now maybe Eng­land can stop ask­ing where the next Owen Har­g­reaves might come from. With Jack Wil­shere’s in­jury record, Michael Car­rick drop­ping away and Hen­der­son fall­ing be­low the re­quired stan­dard, Dier al­ready has a strong grip on the Eng­land No 4 shirt.

Af­ter his header blasted past Manuel Neuer, Dier joined the other four Spurs play­ers in the match-day squad for a brief com­mu­nion: “We did, in the dress­ing room. It’s great for us five [Kyle Walker was an un­used sub­sti­tute]. We re­ally en­joyed it and I think all four of us put in a good per­for­mance. I am re­ally happy for Danny Rose be­cause I think it’s a long time com­ing, re­ally. For me, he has been the best left-back in the Premier League this sea­son so I’m re­ally happy he got his chance.”

Premier League football is labour­ing in Euro­pean club com­pe­ti­tions but Dier thinks its volatile and com­pet­i­tive na­ture helped Eng­land when they went 2-0 down. “I think ev­ery­one was down af­ter the sec­ond goal, but when Harry [Kane] got his to make it 2-1 that lifted ev­ery­one,” he said.

“It sort of had a Premier League feel­ing about it. Lots of times in the Premier League, when you’re 2-0 up and some­one scores, they go on to win it, so that lifted ev­ery­one. We’re a young squad, we’re en­er­getic, we won’t stop – so we’re ob­vi­ously very happy. I think we de­served it.”

From Roy Hodg­son – the real Eng­land man­ager – came the kind of praise he would prob­a­bly rather not give at this del­i­cate point but was obliged to. “I thought he was very good. I was re­ally, re­ally pleased with him, “Hodg­son said of Dier. “I thought against France he was ex­cel­lent and out­stand­ing and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if I think sim­i­lar when I see the game back.

“What’s more, of course, he had the abil­ity to score a goal. To score one against Ger­many, at that stage and win the game, I think he can talk that one up for many years.”

Ris­ing to the task: Eric Dier caps an ex­cel­lent dis­play against Ger­many by head­ing the win­ning goal

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