Tears flow as the real Kieron Dyer throws off the shackles at emotional book launch in Ipswich
MIKE BACON tells of an extraordinary and emotional evening, as Kieron Dyer launched his autobiography, Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late.
I’ve been to a couple of book launches in my sports writing career, but nothing as extraordinary and emotional as the one Kieron Dyer held at Ipswich Town Football Club last week.
There were few dry eyes in the house after Kieron laid himself bare at the launch of his autobiography, Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late, an apt title.
With Simon Milton asking the questions, the pair ducked nothing. Gambling, girls, drink, family, football, and of course the abuse Kieron suffered as a young boy.
It’s a cliché... But you had to be there.
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Before I go any further, I have a confession to make.
Kieron Dyer isn’t just a former Ipswich Town, Newcastle and England footballer to me... He’s a friend.
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I used to ghost write his columns in the Green’Un newspaper when he was a teenager growing up at Portman Road. We became pals.
I’ve been to his children’s christenings and his wedding. He’s my eldest son’s godfather.
Our relationship has never been strained, despite me working in the sports media and him the high-profile sports star. I’ve respected him and he’s respected me. I even asked him if he was ok me doing this piece. That’s how it’s worked over the years.
We’ve done some great stuff together.
Like all his friends and family, I’ve been through his many ups and many downs – He once bought me a really nice watch!
So, his new book has plenty of stories I am familiar with. There are many, however I wasn’t.
It’s a gripping read...
But back to last Friday night and the launch.
Appropriately held at the Sir Bobby Robson Suite, at Portman Road – Kieron idolised Sir Bobby – the night was a huge success.
Friends of Kieron’s, Jonathan Joseph, aka DJ Spoony, former England player, now pundit Jermaine Jenas, author Oliver Holt and Lady Colin Campbell, aka Lady ‘C’, who Kieron got to know while in, ‘I’m A Celebrity’, all to the fore and making entertaining contributions, the night flew by.
But it was Kieron who stole the show.
Those of us who knew him well were aware how he would react to having so many friends and family in the packed hall. It was always going to be emotional for him.
“I didn’t think I’d get this many people here,” he said. “I mean I’m not Rio Ferdinand or Frank Lampard, people don’t like me.”
It was no sound bite. He genuinely feels that way.
Then again just look back at the press coverage Kieron has received during his football career – plenty of it warranted, but just as much of it not.
Rumours and made-up stories. The alleged ‘King of Bling’ and public enemy No.1 in some peoples’ eyes. Part of the ‘Baby Bentley’ brigade, yes he’s made mistakes, but some of the coverage was ridiculously out of proportion for a young lad who simply got lucky because he could play football.
But many don’t know him, so perhaps it’s understandable.
This is a sensitive man who has been thrown into the washer, rinsed out and hung out to dry on more than occasion.
He’s made his own mistakes and he acknowledges them throughout the book and did so throughout the evening. He’s not looking for sympathy. He just wants to tell his story, not everything about him has been as black and white as painted.
Then again, as we all know now, much of Kieron’s life has held a dark secret.
He’s talked about the abuse he received as a young boy from a member of his own family, his Uncle Kenny, in the lead up to the book coming out.
I’ll never forget the day he came to see me at work a couple of months ago and said - long before the launch - he wanted me to read a chapter of it.
I thought it strange, then I soon realised why. Before the abuse story was public he wanted those who knew him to know.
I was gobsmacked. I had no idea.
Few of his friends ever had any idea. His family, for years, had no idea.
What a secret to have to carry around with you for 20 years.
At the book launch, he didn’t hide from talking about it.
Tears pouring down his cheeks, he told of how the abuse had impacted on his relationships with his mum, his sister, even his own eldest son. His team-mates, friends.
How he couldn’t maintain eye contact with people. The guilt he felt for years... The guilt he felt now... ‘For those having to deal with what I’ve told them.’
It was heartbreaking and the tears kept flowing from Kieron – and the audience.
So powerful. So brave...
...I’ve spoken to Kieron a couple of times since Friday.
I sense a weight has been lifted from his shoulders with this book. Superbly written by Oliver Holt, it isn’t one of excuses and gossip. It doesn’t look for pity. It’s just his story.
I remember a newspaper headline about Kieron many years ago. He had been injured but had returned to the Newcastle team at Southampton in an FA Cup tie at St Mary’s.
More stories of his supposed off-field activities were prevalent, but on this particular night, it was Kieron Dyer, the quality footballer, who took centre stage with two goals in a 3-0 victory for the Geordies.
‘Would the real Kieron Dyer please stand up?’, the headline demanded.
Well... And I’m so glad to say... He has now!
Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late By Oliver Holt and Kieron Dyer