Kieron Dyer was an easy target, if you’re into simple narratives: the injury-prone ‘King of Bling’, whose supposed attitude kept him from reaching his true potential.
A midfielder with sparkling fingers and an electrifying pace, the former Ipswich, Newcastle and West Ham player’s career is probably best remembered for that on-field fight with Lee Bowyer, as well as several escapades off the field, rather than 33. matches with England. .
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Dyer was never far from the headlines during his playing career
In fact, Dyer had a personality problem that made him lash out, that was clear. But it wasn’t his fault.
Dyer, now 41, was sexually abused by his great-uncle Kenny when he was 11 years old, and it haunted him for the next two decades of his life without his knowing it.
Psychological trauma took over, building internal walls for Dyer that, he fears, made him unpleasant for others.
Externalizing the abuse was impossible; instead, it became a manifestation of it and you didn’t realize it until much of the damage was done.
Sitting with Ezanime for our new series, After The Lights Go Out, Dyer bravely opens up about how he makes sense of everything now.
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Dyer gave an emotional interview to Ezanime
“I never had help until I was thirty, so I was dealing with the abuse on my own,” she said.
“I developed certain traits that protected me, one of them was never showing vulnerability again. If someone comes for me, I’m going to lash out.
“When the press came looking for me, I thought, ‘I’m not going to put up with your nonsense.’
“I formed this stubborn personality, and what is so difficult is for people to judge me in my youth, I have made some monumental mistakes, but I am a decent and kind person.
“It was just the abuse and the way I handled it formed this personality that was not true to my character, I would just never be vulnerable again.
“When I received the help, I realized that 20 years of my life had been ruined and it was something I could never get back.”
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Listening to Dyer is listening to a man reflect painfully on his experience, which clearly still hurts, but there is the assurance that he now understands everything a little better.
The Englishman recalls another moment that he couldn’t understand until much later: the tragic death of Gary Speed, his former teammate in Newcastle.
Speed’s suicide in 2011 shook the soccer world, and many struggled to accept how someone so successful, so loved, could feel like there was nothing left.
The reality is that sometimes none of that really matters, and we can never really be sure what goes on inside a person’s mind.
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Dyer and Speed were teammates at Newcastle
Dyer knows now. But it was an encounter with Speed’s sons, a few weeks after his death, that made Dyer ask some tough questions.
He added: “A couple of weeks later, Bellers [Craig Bellamy] He played for Liverpool against Manchester City and landed a box at Anfield.
“Bellers invited both Gary Speed’s sons. I was in the box and they were there with Gary Speed’s father.
“How brave and strong these children were blew me away. It was so powerful, and he was so mad at Gary Speed after that.
“I was angry that Gary Speed took his own life, and it was only after talking to the professionals that I discovered that it is a serious illness, not a selfish act.
“Sometimes people think that leaving is better for everyone, but the way their children acted was one of the most powerful and inspiring things I have ever seen.”
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Dyer was criticized by the press for being ‘flashy’
In addition to some invaluable lessons on his mental health, which was also affected by his struggles with injuries, Dyer also reflects on some of the public criticism he has now received from a different perspective, realizing there was probably a more sinister undertone.
The press didn’t make his life easy and as part of the ‘Baby Bentley Brigade’, Dyer spent as much time on the front pages as on the back covers.
Not much has changed: Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have had to highlight the different kinds of treatment black footballers receive in the newspapers.
Success and wealth are often criticized more than celebrated, something Dyer experienced in abundance.
“I remember the press labeled me the ‘King of Bling,'” he added.
“Yes, I was young, I had a diamond earring and some fancy watches, but to be labeled ‘King of Bling,’ I had a racial tone.
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Dyer asks why Beckham never received similar treatment
“Look at David Beckham, he had more diamonds than me, a lot of players had them, but because I was an easy target, and maybe because I’m also black.
“Yeah I didn’t help myself with the way I behaved off the court sometimes, but to get called the ‘King of Bling’ I thought at the time they were just messing with me, but after Raheem Sterling started. By bringing all of this out, I could see there was a racist element to it. “
And besides the press, Dyer believes that soccer has many questions to answer regarding its attitudes towards races as it tries to make its way into the world.
The 41-year-old currently works in Ipswich Town, where it all began, earning his stripes as a coach in the youth configuration, with the dream of becoming a top-level coach one day.
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Dyer thinks black managers like Campbell don’t have the same opportunities
He has been inspired by former England teammates Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who have risen to top spots, at Chelsea and Rangers, but the careers of talented black coaches don’t give him confidence.
Dyer said: “I love that my era of players is getting the best spots. Scott Parker gets the Fulham job. Joey Barton gets the Fleetwood job. Frank Lampard gets Derby, Steven Gerrard gets Rangers, then Sol Campbell gets Macclesfield?
“Sol Campbell lived up to all of them as players, but it has to start at Macclesfield.
“Paul Ince was a great success in his first job, he got the opportunity at Blackburn, it didn’t go well.
“Yeah, he got some other jobs afterward. But if you look at Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren, they get fired, they get another big job. “
Hosted by Steve Harmison and Leon McKenzie, ‘After The Lights Go Out’ focuses on the struggles of professional athletes after their retirement from the sport, and the opening episode features Kieron Dyer this Sunday at 9.30pm on Ezanime.