In the late 1990s, Kieron Dyer was one of the coolest Premier League stickers you could find in a Merlin packet.
Showing immense promise at his local club Ipswich in his teens and early 20s, having worked his way through the Tractor Boys’ academy ranks, Dyer was one of those Division One (now Championship) prospects who probably helped inspire FourFourTwo’s now-mainstay 'Top 50 players outside the top flight' feature.
At the time, Ipswich wanted to be Premier League themselves once again. But when they failed to do so in 1998/99, Dyer realised he could not wait forever, and the East Anglians made a then-club record £6 million in sending him to Newcastle United.
It was at Newcastle that Dyer ended up making his most appearances – 169 starts, 21 substitute cameos, with 23 goals along the way.
Unfortunately, those all came over eight seasons. One of the league’s – and England’s – supposed can’t-miss players of the future was not exactly setting the world on fire as injuries struck.
In fact, his entire spell at St James’ Park is remembered most for one unsavoury moment in 2005 when he and team-mate Lee Bowyer were both sent off for fighting each other.
Bowyer was another guy who, at around the same time as with Dyer, was regarded as a possible future England star. And you thought the national side was in a bad way now – imagine if things had gone another way…
He had his reputation sullied and injuries also hit, but the insipid Newcastle tenure would only be the beginning of Dyer’s woes.
West Ham, fresh off somehow dodging relegation in 2007 despite the Carlos Tevez controversy, celebrated by spending big on less-than-bankable assets. Dyer, again for £6m and on a £83,000 weekly wage, was one of them.
He made 18 appearances in three years before chairman David Sullivan, shortly after assuming control, suggested Dyer follow fellow Hammers crock Dean Ashton into early retirement.
Though the suggestion was a selfish and financially-motivated one – Sullivan had taken on a club with £110m in debts – he was only three years out.
And perhaps Dyer would have been happier had he ended it then and there, if slightly less rich than he is now.
A return to Ipswich on loan could have been the chance to start over, but disagreements over terms saw the deal end after just four league appearances.
When his ill-fated tenure at Upton Park finally ended, having not lasted 90 minutes once for the Irons, things went from bad to worse on the other side of the capital.
Long before Queens Park Rangers’ two-season spell in the Premier League was rife with ridiculous moments thanks to ludicrous signings and a disturbing documentary, there was their very first calamity.
Though a one-year deal with the Rs seemed like a safe bet for the career-rehabbing Dyer, fans nationwide were already opening books on when he would be ruled out for the season with another injury.
Five games? Two games? An hour!?
It took three minutes.
As a foot injury became ligament damage during his recovery, he had to wait until the following season to reappear in the blue and white before new manager Harry Redknapp released him in January.
Though his subsequent short-term spell at Middlesbrough saw him net his first league goal in six years and play the full 90 for the first time in three, this somewhat positive end to his playing days, rather poignantly, ended in the same division where he once looked a future world-beater.
In retrospect, it’s remarkably difficult to believe Dyer acquired 33 England caps along such a rocky road. Or perhaps it isn’t, depending on how you perceive England’s selection standards.
For every Gareth Bale, unfortunately there are a handful of Kieron Dyers – though not many unfulfilled prospects will rake in quite the cash or earn the profile that the 34-year-old did.
It is at least pleasant to hear he is in a good place now, having turned down chances to make more easy cash in MLS or Dubai to begin a new journey as a coach – and see more of his children.
“I’m done now, I’m content and that’s it,” he told Ipswich fansite TWTD. “I don’t want to move away any more, I just want to spend quality time with my kids.
“Since I went up to Newcastle, I’ve been all over the country and I haven’t really had too much quality time with my kids and now I feel that it’s the perfect time.”
For all that’s been said above, Dyer has the tools to succeed as a coach and perhaps give himself the career justification that seemed inevitable 15 years ago.
No doubt there’s a lot he can teach future generations about the mental aspects of the game: if anyone’s experiences can help bring a cocky young pup or two down to earth, it’s Kieron’s.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter
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