Sunday 22 July 2018

'The thing I worry about is that there's not going to be closure for my family'

Former Newcastle Uniter player Kieron Dyer admits he couldn’t cope with the fame, the wealth and celebrity status that came with success. Photo: Getty Images
Former Newcastle Uniter player Kieron Dyer admits he couldn’t cope with the fame, the wealth and celebrity status that came with success. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Hayward

Disclosing the sexual abuse he suffered as a child in a searingly honest autobiography had repercussions beyond Kieron Dyer himself. Another relative has stepped forward this week to say that he, too, was abused by Dyer's deceased great uncle Kenny.

The revelation about Dyer's ordeal when he was "11 or 12" is one part of a candid memoir (Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late) that describes £200,000 gambling debts in the England squad, mayhem at Newcastle and hedonism in Ayia Napa. But the admission that he was abused by a relative as a child is plainly the most far-reaching chapter, in a week when Barry Bennell was found guilty of 43 child sex offences.

Dyer, 39, now an academy coach at Ipswich Town, was emboldened by the courage of Bennell's victims to reveal his own shattering secret.

"When they came out, and this story became public knowledge, it was relief and gave me even more confidence that I could tell my story," he says.

"From a selfish point of view, it brought those feelings back, but it was a relief to see the outpouring of respect and warmth that was shown to them.

"The thing I worry about is that there's not going to be closure for my family because we found out yesterday there's someone else in the family who had been abused. People have obviously now twigged on with certain signs, so I think it's going to be ongoing for my family, which is hard for me to see.

Thankful

"Yeah, someone checked up on him and he said he was so thankful for my story because he was worried about people not believing him. He explained all the signs, and we thought, 'bloody hell, how did we not know this?' So the family goes through the guilt again, which is really tough."

The thoughtful figure now taking account of his life is hard to reconcile with the sometimes debauched 'King of Bling' from his playing days.

He is not blaming the abuse for turning him into a 'jack-the-lad', but the damage is not hard to trace.

In the book, he writes: "I didn't really sleep properly for two years after it happened.

"Two years. Two years of thinking about it all the time. Two years of lying awake in bed. Two years of being terrified of what the night might bring.

"I couldn't get it out of my head, no matter how hard I tried. That was just the start, too. He altered the way I was. He made me suspicious and untrusting. He changed my nature."

Dyer, an Ipswich academy product, played 33 times for England and spent eight years at Newcastle from 1999 to 2007, with later spells at West Ham, Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough. So far, so prosaic, but the reality was more vivid.

He tells his readers: "Out of all of us, I was anointed football's 'King of Bling', the poster boy for the Baby Bentley Brigade. In the public mind, I was the epitome of the Golden Generation gone wrong. I was there when the Ayia Napa sex tapes were filmed.

"I was at the Grosvenor House Hotel the night when the orgy that brought 'roasting' into the English language took place.

"I fought with my own Newcastle United team-mate (Lee Bowyer) on the pitch at St James' Park; I was part of the high-stakes gambling ring that was a big feature of England get-togethers when Sven-Goran Eriksson was the manager; and I was the dumb kid who crashed his brand-new Ferrari on a bridge crossing the Tyne and wrote it off."

On the slide at QPR, Dyer accepted an invitation that changed his trajectory.

Told by Joey Barton that Peter Kay from the Sporting Chance charity was visiting the club, Dyer found himself going along for a chat.

He says now: "People say a lot about Joey Barton, but if it wasn't for him, it (the abuse) would still be a secret, and I would be going down a dangerous path, I really believe that."

The 'King of Bling' tag is not one he considers undeserved: "Not really, because that label was right. I couldn't cope with the fame, the wealth, the celebrity status. I come from a poor background. It was - 'look at me now.' I took all my friends along for the ride and it was an adrenalin rush and a buzz.

"I look back at it now and I don't even own a watch any more." He pulls up his sleeve to prove the claim.

"Can you believe the 'King of Bling' doesn't own a watch any more? It's crazy how it goes full circle. I didn't even class it as flash. I came from nothing, I was in a situation to buy nice things and I wanted to indulge. I loved it at the time.

"Now I look back and think, 'what was I doing having a Ferrari in Newcastle, and the big Escalades with the spinny wheels?' You cringe, but at the time I wouldn't have changed that. I got the whole mixture of celebrity and footballer horribly wrong.

"I got to the stage where I thought I was a celebrity more than a footballer. When you see all our great players - yes they had their scrapes, but they went on to fulfil their potential, and I didn't.

"That's not to say that when I went on the pitch I didn't give my all. My running stats show I did. But if we had a game Saturday to Saturday, I'd be out on Saturday night, Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night. If you're trying to be a top, top footballer, that's going to have an effect."

There was no big money for him in writing his book. The purpose was really to own up, let go, and of course confront the crime that was committed in his childhood. Along the way he reveals plenty about the culture of his time and the "fear" of playing for England.

"I moved to Newcastle on my own. Like the idiot I am, I bought a place in the middle of the quayside - where there's the biggest nightlife in the whole of England, probably," he says. "No one tells me any different. I'm now a millionaire overnight. No help, no advice - and off I go.

"Now, with all these things (support structures) in place, is it any surprise we're winning Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups? When we were playing, we were jack-the-lads."

The gambling habits of those "jacks" in the Euro 2004 England squad were "out of control", Dyer says.

Eating

"In the book I say I went from 46 grand down to 50 grand up one day. I was on big money at Newcastle at the time, but that was eating me up. One player was down £200,000. That has got to be playing on your mind going into a major game."

The England "fear" factor is, he thinks, still present. "I was an exciting player who could take people on, make something happen. When I played for England, I always took the safe option: don't try anything because you might get booed.

"I know people will say the Brazilians are under pressure, and the Germans too, but they have won things, they have that winning mentality while we haven't."

While pain envelops his family once more, Dyer can at least offer wisdom and help, to relatives and those in football.

He says: "As an academy coach, I've been joking with the staff at Ipswich that we should give every 16-year-old a copy of my book and say: read this - here are the dos and don'ts." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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