Take a deep breath; Kieron Dyer is fit. Everything is of course relative, but Dyer has been playing a part in West Ham’s pre-season friendlies, occupying six different positions in the process. Avram Grant looks set to play a 4-3-3, with two wider forwards supporting Carlton Cole, and the right-sided berth looks to suit Dyer, but the question remains over whether he will make it there?
Here is what West Ham have got out Dyer since his £6m transfer from Newcastle in 2007. Seven starts, 22 appearances in all, none of which have lasted the full 90 minutes, and no goals, and all for a basic salary of £60,000 per week that can swell to a rumoured £80,000 when factoring in image rights and loyalty fees. Following Dean Ashton’s retirement, West Ham’s new owner David Sullivan suggested that Dyer may want to follow suit. Dyer, who will turn 32 in December, is on his last chance.
Under the (false) impression that West Ham knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed Dyer, I was surprised to discover that he managed 250 games during his time at Newcastle, an average of 31 per season. At Ipswich, he averaged an even healthier 37 games in his three years at his boyhood club. It would seem that Dyer has saved up all the bad injuries for the Hammers fans.
Dyer has been admired by many, even during his spells on the side lines: Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren have all selected him for England duty and he even made three appearances at the 2002 World Cup. Ruud Gullit parted with £6m for him when he was still just 20, and he was the only Englishman the he signed during his tenure at St James’ Park. If managers can get games from Dyer, they are usually rewarded.
Hammers fans share a cocktail of feelings for Dyer: frustration, anger, sympathy, and ultimately, hope. Despite his lack of games for the club there is a sense the fans would like a fit Dyer playing for their club. The question remains whether, after three years effectively out of football, he can perform like he did at his previous clubs. If he can, and he can remain fit, it will be a like a new signing for Grant and his team, and a useful one at that. With just 47 goals in the league last season, the Hammers struggled up front and were too reliant on Carlton Cole. A fit Kieron Dyer could potentially inject an element of pace and creativity.
With the club still stifled by a debt that at one point exceeded £100m, Avram Grant’s first season in charge will not be an easy one. Hopefully Dyer knows that picking up his bulging wages each week for the last three seasons will weigh heavy on the mind of the club’s owners and fans. However, the injuries have not been his own fault, and a double leg break – his first injury after signing for West Ham that kept him out for 17 months – would put anybody’s career to the test. It is important that he is not rushed back into games unnecessarily, and that both he and his coaches can exercise some self-control. If Dyer has any aspirations to continue to play football, then he must work harder this season than he has ever done in his life. Although he wouldn’t have chosen to be injured, he has a debt to pay to West Ham, and they appear ready and willing to accept payment. An in-form Dyer will suit both parties in a big way, but failure to pay up this season, and Dyer could wave a tainted career goodbye.
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