Kieron Dyer can talk for England, could have run cross-country for England and on Saturday will again play football for England, albeit out of position. As he explained enthusiastically on Wednesday, the eve of the squad’s flight to Liechtenstein for their Euro 2004 qualifier, Dyer would rather be left midfield than left out.
Dyer’s favoured role, one he fills so vibrantly for Newcastle United, is breaking forward through the centre, relying on his touch, timing and an immense lung-power developed while a schoolboy athlete in Ipswich. But Dyer knows that the England attacking midfield slot he craves belongs to Paul Scholes, rightly a favourite of Sven-Goran Eriksson, the coach.
“Paul is an unbelievable player — on a different planet to the rest,” Dyer said. “He’s so much quicker upstairs than every other England player. Only David Beckham is on a par with his brain. I’m not frustrated because Paul is the best attacking central midfielder we’ve got. But Scholes gets a few bookings and suspensions, doesn’t he' It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Hopefully I’m next in line.
“I can do the job on the left. So can Danny Murphy and he plays on the left regularly for Liverpool. So can JJ [Jermaine Jenas], who is so mature and takes everything in his stride. He [Eriksson] thinks I can do the job. I just have to play more games there. I have played there for Newcastle.” Not often and not particularly effectively. Yet it is the sole midfield vacancy open to Dyer in the era of Eriksson’ s three prized men: Scholes, Beckham and Steven Gerrard.
So left midfield it is — Dyer is not one for complaining, merely seeking guidance. “The way Robert Pires plays the position for Arsenal is something I can study. He’s more right-footed than left but he is fantastic.” Pires often drifts inside but, as was noticeable against Chelsea on Tuesday, the Frenchman was happy to steer the ball at speed with his right foot down the left flank, even outstripping Mario Stanic for pace on the outside.
To date, Dyer has not proved a success on the left for England yet, given the lack of pace in Eriksson’s midfield, Dyer’s involvement, particularly against Liechtenstein, should be welcomed. “One of my strengths is my running capacity. I could’ve represented England at cross-country. I can run for 90 minutes. But that’s another bad thing with England — you only play for 45 minutes!”
Dyer, 24, excelled on the first of his 14 caps as a right-back against Luxembourg. “Apart from that, the only real time I’ve done myself justice was when Peter Taylor was in charge and we played Italy. It’s no coincidence that I was playing central midfield.”
Dyer’s club-mate, Jonathan Woodgate, should partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence against Liechtenstein if Sol Campbell’s Achilles remains sore. England’s medical staff, including the Arsenal physio Gary Lewin, will test Campbell this morning before the squad embark. The bulletins last night were not promising and Campbell may be left behind to rest his Achilles in preparation for Wednesday’s qualifier with Turkey.
The side should contain few surprises. David James in goal protected by Ferdinand and Woodgate with Gary Neville and Wayne Bridge pushing on from full-back. Ignoring the clamour for Wayne Rooney, Eriksson is expected to stick with Emile Heskey as Michael Owen’s forward accomplice.