WHEN Eric Dier turned out for Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, I have to admit to not being overly familiar with the name.
By that, of course, I mean I had never heard of him.
Maybe that shows a lack of knowledge on my part but I suspect I wasn’t the only one who was watching this player for the first time.
On Saturday’s evidence against West Ham, Dier looks pretty decent and, what’s more, he’s English too.
The reason for my surprise is this. An England-qualified international footballer plying his trade outside of his home nation is a rare beast. Owen Hargreaves was the last of note for Bayern Munich.
Dier has spent his football career to date in Portugal, where he moved aged 10.
He signed professionally for Portuguese side Sporting four years ago and moved to White Hart Lane in the summer for £4million.
In both his and Hargreaves’ case, they grew up overseas.
For an English player to move abroad mid-career is even rarer.
Until Ashley Cole’s move to Roma this summer, or Major League Soccer became popular for a career swansong, you have to go back to the likes of David Beckham and Steve McManaman or even Paul Gascoigne, David Platt and Ian Rush.
Perhaps this is another reason the national team fails. By playing in other countries, players can gain experience of different teams or styles beyond that of the foreign imports in the Premier League. McManaman won the Champions League twice with Real Madrid.
Yet it is a situation that won’t improve with all the money swilling around the Premier League.
Why move abroad when you can earn more here? It is easy for an English player to sit tight and collect the cash, regardless of whether they can get in the team or not.
They might be better advised to head abroad, away from the spotlight and get a new outlook on the game. Dier looks like he has benefitted from another country’s system. It’s time for others to try.