Dier has no regrets about Portugal snub

Date published: Sunday 13th November 2016 9:56

Eric Dier: No Portugal regrets

As Eric Dier ponders his first year as an England player he would be forgiven for wishing he had been more receptive to the overtures of Portugal, but the Tottenham man insists he has no regrets.

On November 13 last year the Tottenham midfielder made his Three Lions debut, replacing Fabian Delph in a 2-0 defeat by Spain in Alicante.

As England prepare to host the same opponents in a return friendly on Tuesday the 22-year-old has plenty to look back on: the high of scoring an injury-time winner in the 3-2 victory over Germany, a starting spot at Euro 2016 and the crushing disappointment of defeat by Iceland to exit that tournament.

While England tended their wounds, a Portugal squad laden with Dier’s former team-mates and contemporaries – Rui Patricio, Cedric, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Joao Mario – were busy lifting the trophy in Paris.

Dier learned his trade with them at Sporting Lisbon, having left England at the age of seven, and was the subject of third-party enquiries from the Portuguese Football Federation as a teenager.

But the question of transferring his allegiance simply did not appeal and the contrasting fortunes of the two nations this summer has not changed his mind.

“If England can’t win anything then I want Portugal to win. I was very happy for them, but never once did I think I should be playing for Portugal,” he said.

“Once when I was younger they had spoken to Sporting about it, but nothing really came of it. It’s a bit late to turn around now!

“I’m English. I’ve never said the opposite. I’m 100 per cent English. In Portugal it happens that a lot of Brazilians play for Portugal and they’re not Portuguese.

“When I was growing up I wasn’t a big fan of that. When I grew up, I always had the idea that I would play for England. I’m fully English, but Portugal is my home.”

With Dier’s views on naturalised nationals, it would have been interesting to gauge his response had departed England boss Sam Allardyce succeeded in his bid to bring Frenchman Steven N’Zonzi into the fold, particularly as he operates in a similar midfield position.

With neither N’Zonzi nor Allardyce standing any chance of reappearing on the FA’s radar, Dier is able to let the issue pass.

“I enjoyed every minute of Big Sam, it’s got nothing to do with him,” he said.

The Wembley date with Spain represents England’s final engagement of 2016, a year that will surely go down as an annus horribilis for anyone involved with the national team.

Dier is realistic about what can be achieved in those final 90 minutes, admitting that full-scale redemption is a forlorn hope.

Though interim manager Gareth Southgate has brought decorum, dignity and decent results, England know that they can only really restore their reputations at the 2018 World Cup.

“I’ve said before I think it’s going to take a long time to apologise for that Iceland game,” he said.

“I think you can only look two years down the line and qualifying for the World Cup and going there to do it.

“I think the only way to fix the image of one tournament is by fixing it at another tournament. The World Cup is the time to do that.”

Without a doubt, a bright, progressive showing against Spain would still be a timely boost for morale and for Dier that would be preferable to nicking an undeserved win.

“For me, when I play for England, I have the feeling for what the fans want,” he explained.

“It’s not so much the result for it’s as much the fans going home thinking, ‘You know what? They gave it their best go. They left everything out there. They gave everything’.

“There was nothing more they could have done and we enjoyed watching them.’

“Spain are a fantastic side. If we defend for 90 minutes and score a last-minute winner then probably everyone will be happy, but that’s not my way of thinking that we’ve done well.

“Obviously results are what count in senior football, but performing the right way as well is important.”

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