Just like starting over for pacy Dyer

IT WAS August 28, 2007 when Kieron Dyer last started a competitive football match. That was the day when an x-rated tackle from Bristol Rovers defender Joe Jacobson broke his leg in two places and sent him careering on to a long and winding road of rehabi

IT WAS August 28, 2007 when Kieron Dyer last started a competitive football match.

That was the day when an x-rated tackle from Bristol Rovers defender Joe Jacobson broke his leg in two places and sent him careering on to a long and winding road of rehabilitation, set-backs and operations, writes DAVE EVA|NS.

On Saturday, the 30-year-old England midfielder took another giant step towards a full recovery, when he started a match for the first time since that fateful day at the Memorial Ground in Bristol.

And Dyer, who has 33 international caps to his name, did not look overawed or out of place against Chelsea's international midfielders, who outnumbered the Hammers in the middle of the park.


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Manager Gianfranco Zola was certainly pleased with the way he coped against the Blues on Saturday.

"I think he did well considering the kind of match it was today," said the boss. "He applied himself, it wasn't easy because they had three players in midfield and we only had two, and those were three top players."

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Dyer showed just what sort of an asset he could be for the Hammers, after just 20 minutes of Saturday's derby showdown.

He made a superb run from midfield into the box and latched on to Diego Tristan's perfect through ball, to leave him one on one with the goalkeeper.

It is just the sort of run that West Ham have been missing from their midfield players for the majority of this season. Jack Collison did provide it when he was fit and in the team, but aside from him, the Hammers have been sadly lacking in goals from the middle of the park.

Unfortunately, Dyer's dream run into the box was soon ended as his left-foot shot was saved by Petr Cech and the big chance was gone.

"He had a great chance," said Zola. "Diego Tristan, who by the way played a very good match, played a great ball to him, and he just went with his left which is probably not his best and Petr Cech was cool.

"It was a pity, it would have been a very good goal."

It was, but that was not the only contribution from the midfielder, who cost West Ham �6million when he signed from Newcastle back in August 2007.

He linked well with Mark Noble in the middle of the field, and goalkeeper Robert Green was quick to see the benefits of moving the ball to one or the other with clever throws as they attacked Chelsea up the middle with gusto.

Dyer lasted an hour before he was substituted, but the fans could see that injury has not curtailed his pace, an essential part of his game.

The player himself was prepared for the worst while he was sitting on the sidelines, and was already planning a new-style Dyer if the game that has earned him international recognition was compromised by his injuries.

"I have always been confident, even when I was out," said Dyer. "I just thought to myself that if I came back and had lost a bit of pace, which is a big part of my game, that I would still have the confidence in myself to adapt my game and still do a job.

"Thankfully, it looks like I don't have to do that."

It does, and Zola would have been mightily relieved that the player came through with no ill-effects.

"He had to work harder than normal, but I was pleased," said the manager. "He played for one hour, he did very well and it is another step forward towards completely recovering."

Zola is trying to build a strong squad at West Ham and the return of Dyer to the fold is like signing a new player.

With Scott Parker, Noble, Junior Stanislas, Savio, Collison, even Boa Morte and maybe Radoslav Kovac vying for places alongside Dyer, maybe he has the strong midfield already.

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