Premiership star remembers his roots

IN the big scheme of things, the amount Kieron Dyer is paying to sponsor Thursday's Under-18s match between Ipswich Town and Arsenal is small beer - or rather pink Champagne - to a Premiership star.

By Derek Davis

IN the big scheme of things, the amount Kieron Dyer is paying to sponsor Thursday's Under-18s match between Ipswich Town and Arsenal is small beer - or rather pink Champagne - to a Premiership star.

But it is not the bottom line figure that is important really, it is the benefit to the young players them selves.

Dyer has been there, he knows what it is like to play up at Ipswich training centre on wind-swept pitches in front of a handful of people.

He remembers how the big nights of cup football at Portman Road boosted his game and made him feel 10ft tall and how, in turn, that helped him be the megastar he is today.

Dyer said: “I'm in a situation where I can help out when the club are struggling financially.

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“I would not be an England international if it were not for Ipswich Town so it is good to be able to give something back.

“I remember when I was a youth player and on Saturday mornings we didn't play in the stadium but when it came to the FA Youth Cup we did and there were always good crowds. So that geared you for when you got in the first team.”

The West Ham midfielder has had his fair share of damning headlines over the years and cynics may question his reasons for this generous gesture.

But rest assured, as much as Dyer didn't want the bad headlines nor was he keen for his support to be splashed around the media either.

But it is pointless helping to put a game like this on unless it gets publicity and Dyer is still a firm favourite in this part of East Anglia so is an obvious publicity tool to market the game and Simon Milton is a persuasive promoter.

The money Dyer has pumped in means all under-16s get in for free while the cost of putting the game on - stewards, lighting etc - are all covered. So all tickets sold is profit for the Academy.

He will be at Portman Road on Thursday and, as a football fan, is looking forward to an entertaining game.

Dyer said: “The bigger the crowd the better it is for the youngsters out there.

“I'm looking forward to it because it is two good footballing teams. Arsene Wenger is genius and Arsenal are bound to have a few players that we have not heard of yet but will go on to be superstars.

“At Ipswich the emphasis is very much on the youth because they don't have the money to go and spend on big players.

“They always seem to produce players who go on to bigger things so hopefully we will see a few on Thursday who we will be watching on the big stage in a few years.”

It is not the first time Dyer has dipped into his own pocket to help the Blues and helped out the youth team take part in a tournament in Newcastle paying for food and accommodation and offered to underwrite an Under-18s match when he heard the FA Youth Cup final was sponsored.

Recovering from a broken leg means he is spending more time in his home town than he has in eight years and that gives Dyer the chance to see how other projects he backs are getting on.

He sponsors a gymnast, has a three-year sponsorship deal with Whitton United and, during the summer, set up his own soccer skills centre at Whitton sports centre

Dyer said: “When I was at Newcastle it was hard to be involved but now living in the south makes it much easier and I plan to be there for the next one during the next school half-term.”

And he joked: “Hopefully we can find the next wonder-kid and take him to West Ham.

“With Whitton United it was simply because I'm always up there watching friends play so I just wanted to help out.”

With the Olympics coming to London in 2012, Dyer is offering tangible support for 11-year-old Jordan Lawrence to be able to compete.

He said: “I feel Jordan has a great chance to go on at international level. It is still early but he has great potential and if I can help then that is great. With the Olympics in London in 2012 that is his aim and I would love to watch him compete in those games.

“Funding is not what it used to be so it is hard for people like Jordan so I can help with equipment and travel. I just want to help as many Ipswich people as I can.”

For Dyer giving something back is clearly heartfelt and genuine, which reflects his love of football.

He strongly disagrees with Sunderland boss Roy Keane, who recently said that Premiership footballers had lost their soul and were driven by greed rather than by the love of playing.

Dyer said: “Most players are driven because they love football and it is not the money.

“Obviously the money is important and it is good to have but it is not the main reason you play.

“You want to score goals and play in big games and aim for things like the World Cup.

“With the injuries I have had it makes you realise how much you miss the game.

“I'm still ambitious even though it would be easy to jack it all in but all I want to do is play football.

“Roy is entitled to his opinion and will say what he thinks but not many players are like that at all.”

And off he hobbled on his crutches, which he knows he can soon throwaway as his broken leg recovers well.

And for the players on show in the friendly, Dyer offers perfectly the incentive of what can be achieved - but also the warning of what can go wrong in a richly rewarding but precarious business.

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