Eric Dier walked through the entrance to St. George’s Park yesterday for the first time in almost two years and his eyes were immediately drawn to the plaques on the wall.
“I’ve seen they now have a plaque in the reception of all the people who’ve got 50 and 100 caps,” said the Tottenham player.
“It would be a dream to achieve that.
“It’s something that came to mind when I wasn’t in the squad.
“That annoyed me. I would love to be able to reach such a milestone.
Dier has played 45 times for his country, but notably not once since his 4-0 win over Iceland in November 2020.
His selection for Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany, which are the final preparation games for the World Cup in Qatar, was well timed.
There have been times over the last two years when Dier seemed to have no future at Tottenham, let alone England. Dier tried to downplay all of this as he spoke.
“It’s over and a thing of the past,” he said yesterday. “It doesn’t affect me in any way.”
Still, Dier is happy to be back and England should be happy to have him back. Dier brings calmness, intelligence, experience and versatility to Southgate’s squad at a time when form and fitness have deserted some of those who guided his team to the Euro 2020 final at Wembley last year.
Unsurprisingly, Dier credits his resurgence to Tottenham manager Antonio Conte. The Italian has restored Dier’s confidence and also installed a 3-4-3 system that demands a lot from a centre-back who can handle the ball safely when needed.
“I don’t want to sound like a teacher’s pet, but Antonio has done a lot for me in every way,” Dier explained.
“He influenced me a lot in every way. Tactically, physically, mentally. My whole approach.
“I’ve never learned so much about football and I really enjoyed it.
“He’s the godfather of that system, so I feel like you’re constantly learning and evolving in that. I think maybe he gave me a bit of my faith back too.’
Like everyone else in Southgate’s squad for Friday’s game at Milan and Monday’s game at Wembley, Dier will be hoping for time on the field to champion Qatar.
Southgate’s ideal central World Cup pairing would be Harry Maguire and John Stones, but neither can claim to have had a perfect domestic season to date. Maguire isn’t even in the Manchester United squad right now.
Dier also seems suited to the back-three system Southgate often uses – and also has emotional approval from his manager.
As part of Southgate’s team that finished in the last four at the last World Cup – he scored the deciding penalty in the round of 16 shoot-out against Colombia – Dier’s subsequent decline was severe.
Only when he was absent from last year’s EURO squad did he briefly consider whether he would have a future, but even that feeling was fleeting, tempered by the events of the tournament’s opening weekend.
“Not going to the European Championships – maybe I didn’t know at that point what would happen afterwards,” he reflected.
“To be honest, when I think about the Euros, the first thing that comes to mind is what happened to Christian [Eriksen].
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life that I’ve never really lost anyone close to me. That was just a really bad day.
“I’ve been watching on TV – I can’t really talk about it, man. It was hard. He was a good friend of mine. Luckily he IS a good friend of mine.”