England boss Roy Hodgson’s revelation that Raheem Sterling asked to be left out of England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia last month sparked a media feeding frenzy, with recriminations coming from all sides, including the player’s club Liverpool.
Thankfully, much less has been made of Spurs’ Eric Dier’s decision to skip Under-21 duty.
Not that the papers didn’t try, with “Eric Dier asked Gareth Southgate if he could be excluded from England Under 21 squad…” and “Spurs’ Eric Dier pleads not to play for England U-21s because Southgate wants him to play right-back” headlines thrown around as bait.
Southgate insists he fully backs Dier’s decision to miss the friendly fixtures against Portugal and France, as the former Sporting Lisbon youth wants to work on cementing a place in the Lilywhites’ first team at centre-half.
Dier has largely filled in for Kyles Walker and Naughton since joining Spurs over the summer, but with centre-back trio Younes Kaboul, Federico Fazio and Vlad Chiriches all struggling, and Jan Vertonghen seemingly frozen out, there’s clearly an opportunity in his favoured position.
Leicester’s Liam Moore, Middlesbrough’s Ben Davies and Nottingham Forest’s Jamaal Lascelles have been preferred in the position by Southgate, although the fact that the former can also play at right-back adds some puzzlement to the coach’s decision not to switch him with Dier occasionally.
As the former Middlesbrough boss stated, Dier is going to be a centre-half despite his plucky performances on the flanks for Spurs; one look at the granite-hewn 6ft2in 20-year-old strongly suggests as much.
Southgate’s men are shorn of West Brom’s Saido Berahino for the upcoming features, as the Burundi-born goal machine has been promoted to the seniors off the back of 10 goals in 13 Young Lions appearances, allied with seven in 11 Premier League fixtures this term for the Baggies.
With that in mind, backing under 2.5 goals at 17/20 in what’s likely to be a cagey clash at Turf Moor makes sense.