Paul Mortimer Meets...former Huddesfield Town assistant manager Alex Dyer - (Part One)
As part of a feature series, Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Players Engagement Manager, has travelled across the country to speak to a variety of current and former professionals about the issues most important to them in the modern game.
For the latest entry, Paul spoke to former Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town assistant manager Alex Dyer about his experiences as a BAME player and coach within the game.
In the first of a two-part interview, Alex spoke to Paul about how racism affected his playing career and the need for organisations like Kick It Out to help tackle discrimination.
By Charlie MacKinnon
Before entering the coaching and management side of the game, the 51-year-old played at 11 clubs during his 17-year professional career, and revealed some of the discrimination he faced during his playing career.
“The banter back then was not like it was now, it was a colour banter,” he revealed.
“Football has changed over the years. When I made my debut in 1984/85 I was at Watford, I didn’t make the grade. I left Watford and went to Blackpool. It was different, I was 17, I did three-and-a-half years there. They were great years and it helped me mould the way I am today.
“I was on my own initially and I had a manager called Sam Ellis. He said, ‘do you want to come up?’ so I did the following season. He said, ‘if you like it, then stay, if you don’t, go home’. He took me into his house for the first month and looked after me and got me fit. I had to toughen up quickly, I had a bunch of players who could be trying at times.”
When starting out at Blackpool, he was the only black player in the squad, and Alex is thankful of his calm persona when it came to dealing with some of the discrimination which he faced.
“It was different because If I was an aggressive person I would’ve ended up having fights every day. It was difficult. I played with experienced players who had never played against black players.
“I definitely experienced abuse in the stadium, but never experienced it in the town. Blackpool was quite cosmopolitan. I never got called names or looked at funny in the town. Players called me names on the pitch. You just had to get on with it, I was just trying to win the game and do my best. You’d have to give as good as you got.”
After retiring from playing in 2001, Dyer was employed at a south London school as a PE teacher, before joining West Ham United as assistant sports scientist, then becoming reserve team coach for the east London club in 2008.
Alex feels his experience of moving to Hull at a young age by himself shaped his progression into a coach: “I loved it up there, I changed up there. I went to Hull City and I had no problems, I lived with the best people, bought my first house there, the people looked after me. It was never malicious.”
He spoke highly of Kick It Out, and stressed the importance of inclusive organisations when it comes tackling discrimination in football.
“I came from an era where there was nothing. I know if I was playing now I could go somewhere and get some backing. Before there was nothing, no support. You’d get it from the manager, and if they didn’t want to help, it’d be swept under the carpet. The tone was more ‘man up’ which was hard.
“I would say, even though we’d have banter in training, when it came to match days, my team-mates wouldn’t take it, if they heard it from the other side they’d back you up.”
Alex was vocal in the changes of discrimination since his transition from player to coach, and how he would deal instances of discrimination now he’s in a coaching role in a position of authority.
“All the time I’ve been coaching, it rarely happens. If I heard that on the pitch, the player would be instantly sent off. I don’t think you can correct it with violence, it’s never the way. As a coach, I would do my best to get rid of it as soon as possible.”