Tottenham and England's Eric Dier is the first guest on the My Sporting Mind podcast series two

Eric Dier speaks with My Sporting Mind podcast - Sporting Life's latest partner

Series two of My Sporting Mind began with Eric Dier revealing just how he switches off and occupies his mind.

It's already been a cosmopolitan career for the Spurs and England defender, who was born into a sporting family in Gloucestershire but moved to Portugal as a young boy before becoming part of another 'Sporting' family, this time at Lisbon.

Despite having to learn the language on the football pitch - a stress which at times resulted in his parents having to force him to train - Dier adapted and made his home at the club, where he rose through the ranks as youth team captain before eventually leaving for Tottenham.

"It wasn't easy at the beginning - I was in a new environment, I couldn't speak the language," he told My Sporting Mind host Charlie Webster.

"There were times my mum had to throw me over the fence to go and train because I didn't want to, not for fear of playing football, just fear of the environment. She likes to remind me every now and then if I'm trying to be a tough guy!

"It was incredible, playing there from eight until I made my debut 20. It's my club, I don't have another club like it - I feel like it's my home. An incredible family environment there, I only have good memories.

"The first couple of years weren't easy, especially the language barrier (but) I just became one of them."

Eric Dier talks Josรฉ Mourinho, World Cups and healthy mentality

Now 27, Dier is firmly established as an England international having first been selected by Roy Hodgson, and captained his country for the first time against Germany two years later.

But while he calls Sporting his home and is now firmly established as a vital and popular member of the Tottenham team, it's a spell at Everton as a teenager which he credits with making him the player he is.

"I went to Everton a boy, and I came back a man," he said.

"It felt completely foreign to me - the first six months I hated it. I felt very much like a foreigner coming to England. It was a strange thing coming to Liverpool and speaking English all the time.

"It had a huge impact on me and was really beneficial, looking back on it now. I was extremely comfortable at Sporting, everything had gone very smoothly until then. My father just said to me that I really need to get out of that environment, put myself in an uncomfortable situation.

"(English football) quite a lot more hostile, a lot more intense. Physically I changed a lot. There were loads of things that really helped me at that time."

Now, he's come to learn what works for him and what doesn't. Dier is a self-confessed home-bod - handy in the circumstances - but likes to stay busy, whether that's out in the garden or by putting his yoga lessons to use.

"I enjoy it a lot," he says of gardening. "It's something which really helps me clear my mind, and it's something that's very rewarding - growing your own things, it's a bit of a journey and you've got to learn quite a lot.

"I like being outside, I like being in that environment; doing those kind of things helps me take my mind off everything else. I only realised it in lockdown, but it's something that really helps.

"I'm terrible - I find it very difficult to relax, my mind's always going; I'm someone that likes to always be doing something. But I am definitely a home person, I like to be at home. I'll always prefer having friends round for dinner than going out for dinner."

Eric Dier heads the ball clear

And the yoga?

"I've been doing it since I was in Portugal, when I was 18 or 19. From a physical point of view and a mental point of view, it has helped me massively.

"Even my dad starting doing yoga two or three years ago - he's someone I never imagined would practice something like that, and he absolutely loves it.

"I think we're getting past those stereotypes. I went to a pilates class with my sister three or four years ago, I just remember after 10 minutes being a shaking mess, sweat everywhere. I found a whole new respect for pilates.

"There's a lot to be said for it - it's extremely good for you, and a lot more difficult than it looks, and I find out the hard way."

In a wide-ranging interview, Dier discusses that incident with a fan - something he laughs at now, as it's not in his nature to worry about what others are saying - and the difficulties he faced when his appendix burst, especially the frustrations that spell in and out of the Spurs side brought.

"Being a health issue, it was extremely difficult for me to accept. With an illness, it's incredible just how vulnerable you become so quickly. It took a very long time and it was extremely difficult. I was playing games sometimes, nowhere near the level I wanted to be at, the fitness or the mindset. Thankfully I got through it in the end, but it was a difficult time."

His advice to sportspeople suffering with injury is advice which perhaps translates to mental health, the focus of My Sporting Mind, which you can find on all major podcast providers.

"Don't rush," he says. "Do everything in the right way, listen to your body, try and be disciplined. Accept advice from people around you - look for help, accept help. I don't think any of these things you can do by yourself.

"My family, my friends, they were the people who helped me the most."

It's when Dier talks about those foundations laid two decades ago in Portugal, both by his family and what's clearly a well-run football club, that his sense of perspective and strength of mind are revealed.

During his time there, on loan at Everton and now at Tottenham, where he felt compelled to move to take his Premier League chance and work with Mauricio Pochettino, Dier has worked with a range of managers and coaches - including now Jose Mourinho, 'one of the strongest people I know' from a mental perspective.

"For me the most important thing is to be yourself, play the way you play best; try and impress the new manager when he comes in. I think just always being yourself, that's what going to come through.

"If a new manager comes in and you act a certain way, you can't keep it up, your natural self will come through in the end. To be yourself is the most important thing. I very strongly believe in my principals that my parents gave me, that Sporting gave me. Those have always been my benchmark, and I try to always follow them.

"Hard-working - I don't think I'll ever be out-worked by anyone. To be polite, be respectful - respect was something that was extremely important at Sporting Lisbon. To be loyal. I think I'm very loyal to those that I care about. The environment at Sporting, their focus was so much on the person, rather than the player. Your school had to be right, you had to shake everyone's hands, you had to say good morning, you had to make your bed, your room had to be tidy. All of those principals were huge for them, and I think it's the right way to do things.

"When things aren't going right, I go back to my principals, see if I have strayed from any of those. Kind of going back to basics. I find if I'm going through a difficult period, I'll work through it - putting in that extra bit of word here and there helps me build my confidence back up."

It's clear that Dier is his own biggest critic, which in turn allows him to block out what others may say - for all that it became difficult when he was under fire for his performances while battling health issues in the wake of surgery.

"I've never been someone that's been affected too much (by what people say). I had the incident with the fan, and it's kind of funny that it was me that had the incident because it's not really something that ever really bothers me at all in any way. I don't really pay attention. I think I'm very honest with myself, which is important. I'm lucky, I have people around me that are very honest with me as well.

"If I'm playing badly or whatever, I know before anyone else. I don't need anyone else to tell me. If my manager tells me or my brother or sister or parents, I'm going to listen to them, I'm all ears for them. For anyone else, I'm not really interested in what they say about it."

Dier believes that mental strength and sense of perspective has got him where he is today, having seen many others fail to make the progress on the pitch that had been anticipated.

"The mental side is huge in football. The amount of footballers that I knew that were a lot better than me that didn't make it, was purely a mental aspect and not a physical one. The mental aspect is the biggest, the most important.

"The talent and the quality of lots of players is similar; it'll be their mental fortitude that is the difference. Belief in themselves; more than belief, the mental fortitude in difficult moments. Willing to go that extra mile, or put a little bit more effort in. It really does come down to how much you're willing to do, how much you're willing to sacrifice."

As for becoming stronger, he says open-mindedness is key.

"Try different things. To have an open mind is extremely important. People can constantly be looking outwards to what other people are doing, how other people are doing. Focus on yourself, and what you can control. Focus on you, what makes you feel better. If this makes you feel good, follow that."

My Sporting Mind podcast is available through your normal podcast provider, including:

For anyone struggling with their mental health, or just feeling the need to speak to someone and be heard, then call free and anonymously:

Like what you've read?

Most Read

Join for free!
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Race Replays
My stable horse tracker
giftOffers and prize draws
newsExclusive content