I t’s a telling sign of where West Ham are at the moment that if a 28-year-old Kieron Dyer could travel in time from August 2007 to January 2018, he would not join the Hammers.
The now 39-year-old doesn’t believe the club is anywhere near as close to pushing to the oft mentioned ‘next level’ as we were a decade ago.
His move to the club for £6m from Newcastle followed West Ham’s greatest escape – inspired by one Carlos Tevez – but Dyer felt the side being compiled by Alan Curbishley was one that would break into, and then become a mainstay in European competitions.
‘You’d been taken over by the Icelandics and there were players like Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill, Craig Bellamy – who I’d played with before and knew he was an exceptional player – and, of course, Scott Parker,’ Dyer told Blowing Bubbles. ‘I know he didn’t turn out great for West Ham but Freddie Ljungberg was there too and I felt the club was showing great ambition.
‘When Curbs came to see me and sold the club to me, it really felt like the club was going to push on and fi nd themselves battling at the top of the league and would go on to win things.
‘But then on my second game, I broke my leg and was out for the season, Bellamy and Parker missed lots of that season to and Curbs’ plan went up in flames.
‘I don’t think if I were 28 again and West Ham came in for me now that I would join. I’m not sure you have the same calibre of player that I was seeing when I joined.
‘Don’t get my wrong, David Moyes has come in and steadied the ship and they are heading in the right direction but West Ham are not going to catch up with the top six anytime soon. ‘They are not too far away from beating the likes of Everton to the “Best of the Rest” honour but when you look at the amount of money the two Manchester clubs are spending, I just don’t think Gold and Sullivan can compete.’
Twenty odd appearances in four seasons at West Ham also speaks volumes about Dyer’s time at Upton Park.
But just 10 days after stepping out in claret and blue, he was stretchered off after a tackle by Joe Jacobson in a League Cup match against Bristol Rovers that resulted in his right leg being broken in two places. Looking back to that cup match, Dyer continued: ‘We had Reading away in the league a few days after the Bristol game and Curbs told me he would rather save me for the weekend but I asked to play.
‘I’d had a bit of a stop-start pre-season with Newcastle because I thought the deal with West Ham was on and then it wasn’t and I’d already asked to leave the club. I thought it would be good to get another game under my belt to get me up to speed. ‘There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t regret that decision. I was 28 and I’d wised up by then – I was living life as a dedicated professional.
‘I was the first to arrive at training and the last to leave. I never got drunk and West Ham really should have seen the best of me but after that injury I never managed to play four or five games on the trot.
‘With the injury that it was, that should not have been the death of my career. Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal suffered a similar injury and he was back playing in nine months and at the same level – everything just went against me.
‘It is hard to take knowing West Ham never truly saw what I had to offer. The fans really should have seen the best of me but they probably only saw 10 per cent of what I could do.
‘I will probably go down as the worst signing ever for West Ham which is such a shame.’
But Dyer has nothing but praise and respect to the West Ham faithful. ‘I will never hear a bad word said about the West Ham fans and the support they give the players,’ he continued. ‘Every time I went out onto the pitch, they were incredible to me.
‘They must have been so frustrated with me so I will always be thankful for their and appreciate them for what they did for me. ‘My best memory from my time at West Ham was when we played Barnsley in the cup in January 2009.
‘I was on the bench having returned from injury and I came on and played really well – I’d showed a glimpse of what I could do. ‘The ovation I got was incredible and just goes to show what great fans they really are.’
But Dyer’s injuries continued in May 2009 when he was ruled out with a hamstring injury. He played in the first match of the 2009–10 season against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but had problems with injuries after the match.
He managed only one more match, away to Blackburn Rovers, before hamstring problems hit again. He returned for two further matches before another injury in September kept him out until returning in a reserve match against Stoke City in November when he scored two goals.
After taking over West Ham in January 2010, David Sullivan suggested that Dyer should follow Dean Ashton into retirement.
As for playing at Upton Park, Dyer said he always felt like he played well at our former home and was another reason why he was keen to move when he did.
‘I used to love playing at Upton Park as an opposition player – particularly if it was a game under the lights.
‘I always enjoyed playing in a hostile atmosphere and the fans certainly didn’t hold back when it came to giving out stick but it was one of those grounds that I always felt I did well at.
‘I was sad to see West Ham leave Upton Park. It was understandable but I think every club that has moved to a new stadium, like Arsenal at the Emirates and Spurs at Wembley, struggles at the start.
‘Upton Park had a formidable atmosphere that just hasn’t quite translated into the new stadium yet.’ As for his former West Ham teammates, Dyer said former captain Lucas Neill and Bobby Zamora were his favourite.
‘Lucas was an unbelievable captain from a team spirit and bonding point of view but Bobby was the character in the dressing room.
‘I didn’t know just how funny he was. He was the life and soul of the dressing room but as for some of the things he got up to, you’ll have to ask him.’
In May 2010, figures in The Daily Telegraph stated that Dyer, who had made only 22 appearances and had never played a full 90 minutes for West Ham, was the club’s top earner on £83,000-a-week. His deal included £424,000-a-season for image rights and £100,000 in loyalty fees.
Dyer was released by West Ham at the end of the 2010–11 season, after costing the club around £450,000 for every match he played in.
After joining QPR in 2011, Dyer was forced off three minutes into his debut due to a persistent thigh injury. He didn’t play again for the rest of the season.
In January 2013 he joined Middlesbrough, playing only nine more times before retiring. ‘I’d had enough of letting people down, but I was relieved that I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of fans by being injured all the time. I was smart too late.
I didn’t have the career of a Steven Gerrard, or Frank Lam pard – but I played for a huge club, and represented my country at a World Cup .’
In 2015, the former Ipswich Town midfielder took part in ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’.
‘One of the most difficult things about being in the jungle was that I didn’t have access to the football results. The only time I had a hint of what was going was when I saw Ant and Dec. They’re obviously both massive Newcastle fans so when I asked them about the results they’d either give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down.’
Dyer has recently courted a lot of media attention about his book: ‘Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late: My Story’ in which he reveals between the age of 11 and 12, he was sexually abused by his great-uncle, Kenny.
He kept this secret for 20 years until he met with a counsellor, Peter Kay, at Queen’s Park Rangers.
Dyer wrote: ‘On a Friday night, I fell asleep on Kenny’s lap… Then I woke up, but I was too scared to open my eyes. Kenny had slipped his hand down my trousers while I was asleep and now he was fondling me… he pulled my trousers all the way down and tried to perform oral sex on me… eventually I managed to push him away. But he said: “Don’t tell anyone, this our secret”.’
After keeping the abuse he suffered a secret for 20 years, he eventually opened up to Peter, and later revealed the abuse to his family.
‘I did feel liberated after speaking with Peter. He said I had to sit down with people close to me and tell them what had happened and explain why I had been behaving the way I had. ‘I suppose the hardest thing was when I called my family together and told them.
Dyer writes about how, in his twenties, he was playing alongside football legends, playing for world-class coaches, and was was earning around £60,000 per week but he was thrust into the world of money, celebrity and scandal.
And how he became more famous for what he did off the pitch, rather than on it – secret dates with pop star Cheryl Tweedy, crashing his £120,000 Ferrari, sex and gambling scandals.
And who can forget his fight with then teammate Lee Bowyer in April 2004 when playing for Newcastle against Aston Villa?
‘Not long after Villa’s third goal, Bowyer started getting angry that I never passed him the ball.
‘After another two times he went absolutely nuts, shouting: “You never pass me the ball!” ‘We were losing 3-0, so I lost it as well. I said: “I never pass you the ball, because you’re f****** s***!”
‘He grabbed me and started raining in punches! I couldn’t believe it was happening in front of 52,000 people – but I started throwing them back at him!
‘We were made to go to the press conference after, we were both sat there like naughty school boys. We’re still good friends, we just had one mad moment.’
Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late: My Story’ by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt was published on February 22 by Headline. To order your copy for visit www.mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 0844 571