Kieron was always destined for stardom

SOCCER: It was a level playing field at the time this picture was taken. Every player was talented enough to get picked for Suffolk Schools at Under-16 level.

By Elvin King

SOCCER

IT was a level playing field at the time this picture was taken. Every player was talented enough to get picked for Suffolk Schools at Under-16 level.

But while one has gone on the reach world stardom – and a weekly salary that dwarfs the annual increment of most – the rest are left playing football for fun.

Kieron Dyer was at Westbourne School in his final year before joining Ipswich Town where he soon made the first team and went on represent England at Under-21 and senior levels.

He is now a superstar with Newcastle United, playing in the Premiership and Champions' League with talk of interest from top Italian club Juventus.

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"Kieron was always a bit special," said 23-year-old Stowmarket Town defender Kevin Barker, a fully trained plumbing and heating specialist who had his moment of glory when he played at Wembley Stadium for Earl Soham Victoria in the final of the 1999/00 Carlsberg Pub Cup final.

"He was not arrogant, but he knew he was going to be good enough. He always had confidence in his ability.

"I take an interest in his career having rubbed shoulders in the same team and it is nice to say that I played with him.

"It would have been great to have gone on and enjoyed a professional career myself – and at the time the picture was taken I think we all held those dreams, but it was Kieron who was that little bit special."

Goalkeeper Daniel Potter signed for Chelsea where he spent two seasons before signing for Colchester United. He played in the Third Division for Exeter City and is now on the books of Ryman League Canvey Island.

Mark Burgess was with Ipswich Town both as a YTS and as a senior player, but he is now turning out in the Jewson League like Barker – with Clacton Town.

Defender Gary Henderson, now playing for Eastbourne United in the Sussex League, has a unique record of playing with both Dyer and his current Newcastle team mate Craig Bellamy.

Now a PE teacher in Sussex, Henderson was on Norwich City's books as a schoolboy before signing youth forms for Peterborough United.

"If anybody was going to make the grade from the Suffolk Schools side it was Kieron," he said. "Craig had the same confidence as Kieron and some would say it was cockiness, but those who knew a good player when they saw one were certain both had what it takes to reach international standard.

"Suffolk players were given tickets to watch first team games at Portman Road, but Kieron never took his up. Instead he would collect a football and play on the nearby Alderman Road recreation ground."

Henderson also has a tale to tell about an Ipswich and South Suffolk match in King's Lynn. "We began playing and realised that Kieron was not on the pitch.

"After a while we heard this voice coming from a small window in the toilet block at the school where we were playing.

"He had been locked in by the caretaker just before kick-off. He then showed his class by scoring four times as we ran out 6-1 winners. You knew when he ran at a defence a goal was likely, either from Kieron of from an unselfish pass to a team-mate after doing all the hard work."

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