Modest newcomer Eric Dier claims he is trying his best in every England game merely to retain his place in the first XI, despite appearing to be one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s team sheet.
Dier was among the five players who kept their spot in a much-changed line-up for the 0-0 draw with Slovakia in Saint-Etienne on Monday, demonstrating the 22-year-old’s importance to the side just a handful of games into his senior international career.
The Tottenham Hotspur player has excelled in holding midfield, filling a void England have struggled to deal with since the retirement of Owen Hargreaves.
But Dier himself, who can also play at centre-back, is not taking his lofty standing with the national team for granted.
“I think I’ve proved that I enjoy playing there the whole season at Tottenham and I’m obviously playing here now for England,” he told reporters at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
“I’m delighted with that and I’m trying my best in every game to keep my position and keep helping the team.”
England could face familiar major tournament foes Portugal in the round of 16 depending on results in Group F, meaning Dier – who spent 11 years at Sporting Lisbon, graduating from the academy to the senior team before moving to north London – may be able to provide some inside knowledge.
“Yes, I grew up with quite a few who are playing for them now. I grew up with William Carvalho [and] Joao Mario,” he added.
“Rui Patricio, the goalkeeper, I played with him at Sporting, and Adrien Silva at Sporting as well.
“Andre Gomes, I played against him in the youth teams. So I know quite a few of them.”
Given Dier’s composure and poise in a classic continental holding role, it may come as something of a surprise to learn he used to idolise former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane who, while doing his fair share of defensive duties, was a snarling, box-to-box dynamo.
“There are always players I liked when I played in that position when I was a bit younger,” he said of recent his conversion to a regular midfield berth.
“When I was growing up Roy Keane was a player I loved and Rafael Marquez who used to play for Barcelona, I liked him too.”
Dier will be hoping he can emulate those decorated greats by providing the foundations for England to advance to the quarter-finals in France.
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