West Ham star’s home return a sad moment for a once promising footballer

The other day I was looking back at photos of a night out I had at University. Struggling to recall the night I tried to pull of a flowery Hawaiian shirt and a John Hartson beard, I was forced to remember the sporting event of the day and how I watched it. That night, four years ago, was one of those meaningless friendlies between Spain and England that provided the bread for Steve McClaren’s disastrous qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.

Although we could have not appreciated it at the time, the game was actually quite a significant one for several of England’s squad players. The defeat at Old Trafford turned out to be Gary Neville’s final appearance in international colours, the controversial Joey Barton made his England debut and a certain Kieron Dyer impressed as part of the England midfield.

Dyer, then a Newcastle United player, was the perennial nearly man for England for the best part of a decade. A youth team prospect at Ipswich, a 1999 move to St James Park was seen as the start of a glittering Premier League career for the flying winger.

Yet, this week Dyer, at the age of 32, returned to Portman Road having been unable to fulfil his talents and potential at the top level of domestic and international football. Incapable of featuring regularly for Premier League strugglers West Ham, Dyer has dropped a division to ensure his former employers do not drop into the relegation quagmire.

The winger was a young prospect for such a long time that you had to check that he wasn’t a character from ‘Captain Scarlet’ – sadly for Dyer he was anything but invincible. With a succession of hamstring and knee injuries blighting his attempts to push on, the midfielder spent vast chunks of his prime years on the sidelines. From young gun to vulnerable old-timer in a matter of seasons, the fall from grace has been dramatic.

It is a wonder that he managed 33 games for England – places in squads for the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 were secured through promising runs of form when at Newcastle, but a lack of first team action since 2004 has limited Dyer to two caps in seven years.

Dyer’s move to West Ham in 2007 actually appeared a positive career move. Having finished the 2006-07 season strongly at Newcastle, he remained hot property and his joining Freddie Ljungberg in the capital excited fans looking to build on the Hammers team that had miraculously escaped relegation the previous year. Both men were quickly injured – Dyer’s broken leg at the hands of Joe Jacobson of Bristol Rovers, kept him out of the game for over 18 months and in truth marked the terminal decline in trajectory of his career.

In recent months, Dyer’s time at West Ham has become a case study of the crazy money thrown around at the club before the global economic downturn. Last summer it was reported in The Daily Telegraph that the winger was being paid a staggering £83,000 per week, alongside loyalty bonuses and image rights exceeding an extra £500,000 a year. All of this for a player never to have completed 90 minutes for his club nor to have scored a single goal, indicates just how expensive the Dyer gamble has been for the London club.

As he completes his month long loan spell in the Championship with his boyhood club, Dyer himself might still harbour hopes of returning to play a role in West Ham’s struggle for Premier League survival before the end of the season. However, with his contract up at the end of the campaign, the overwhelming likelihood remains that he will never return to the top level and that Portman Road will be the last stop on the Kieron Dyer career train.

Remember the last time Kieron Dyer played 90 minutes for club or country? Find me on Twitter for the answer to this and why I spent 94 minutes watching ‘John Tucker Must Die’ last night instead of Sevilla – Barcelona.