“Football’s bloody soft these days,” is the sort of well-worn complaint yer da rolls out every Saturday afternoon after he’s spent ninety minutes watching top-flight English football, during which not a single tackle was attempted and some pampered foreign number 10 whose name he cannot pronounce spent a quarter of the allotted game time rolling around on the floor.
Not if you’re Eric Dier. The one thing every red-blooded Englishman learned from England’s excellent win over Luis Enrique’s Spain side is that the art of the clattering is still well and truly alive – you just have to look in the right places to find it.
Despite three very well taken goals, a number nine masterclass from Harry Kane and further promising performances from burgeoning internationals like Ben Chilwell, the one moment that captured the imagination of the nation was Tottenham hard-man Eric Dier doing an absolute number on arch-shithouse Sergio Ramos.
Surely guaranteed to get him on the New Year’s honours list, Dier’s tackle was such a glorious example of just how much the English love, welcome and embrace a completely unnecessary clattering.
With Ramos a full ninety-five yards from the English goal, and dribbling into his own box, a rampant Eric Dier senses blood in the water. Like a skinhead hound going after a heavily-tattooed hare, he scampers after the Real Madrid centre-half the second Ramos shapes up to receive the pass from Alonso.
As wondrous a clattering as you’ll ever see, executed for the sole gain of gifting the opposition a goal kick. Marvellous. Utterly marvellous.
Who needs the “cultured art” (read: incessant diving) of Sergio Busquets, when you can have a man willing to spring twenty yards to smash someone as hard as they can?
Earning a yellow card is the least of Eric Dier’s worries. In a footballing world increasingly awash with statistics, the 24-year-old holding midfielder doesn’t seem overly concerned with recoveries, duels won or forward pass completion.
You can leave that sort of nonsense to Wilfriend Ndidi and Lucas Torreira.
Eric Dier is a man of the people, and what the people want to see – especially if you’re from Liverpool – is Sergio Ramos getting flattened without an ounce of apology. In fact, the biggest injustice was that Dier was carded for the so-called offence.
Upon seeing the challenge, no doubt Martin Keown was up off his sofa in an instant, loudly informing his exasperated wife how such a tackle back in his days was commonplace. “A reducer is part and parcel of the game,” he’ll announce, all dewy-eyed at the memory of walloping Ruud van Nistelrooy up and down the Old Trafford pitch for ninety minutes.
Dier, though, waxed lyrical about his role in this current England set-up, seemingly oblivious to the fact he almost eliminated his country twice during this summer’s World Cup with his insistence on charging headfirst around the pitch kicking people.
“Jordan Henderson is the runner,” Dier duly explains. “It’s his job to run around, you see. He runs around and shouts at people. We almost called him the shouter, but Jordan Pickford does a lot of that too. So we call him the runner instead.”
“Harry Winks is the passer. He passes the ball. Are you following? Passing it this way, passing it that way. Always passing. Sometimes, he passes it forwards too.”
“But me?” A wicked grin alights on Dier’s as he re-watches his challenge on Ramos for the umpteenth time. “I’m the kicker. I kick things. Sometimes I kick the ball; sometimes I kick other people. But when you think about it, that’s what football’s about, isn’t it? You use your foot to kick things. If anything, I’m the purest footballer England have. You can print that, too.”
It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic, and frankly, why would you want to? England beat Spain and Eric Dier will be damned if anyone tries to claim he didn’t play the biggest role in that victory.
For now, with the international break over, Eric Dier is looking forward to returning to the Tottenham camp, specifically to prepare for the West Ham game where he intends to clatter Jack Wilshere inside his own D for absolutely no reason during the dying seconds of a routine Spurs 3-0 win.
* For the purposes of this article, Eric Dier’s quotes are entirely fictional. We are sure Eric Dier is in fact a lovely chap and wouldn’t possibly condone kicking the living daylights out of opposition players.