Kieron Dyer’s memoir, Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late, is the first intimate and unsparing portrait of the failures and excesses of the generation of English footballers made rich beyond their wildest dreams by the post-1990 World Cup boom in the game and the explosion of the Premier League. It shares the same brutal honesty and self-awareness of the bestselling No Nonsense by Joey Barton and GoodFella by Craig Bellamy.
In the public mind, Kieron Dyer came to symbolise so much of what was self-destructive about a group of football players known collectively as the ‘Baby Bentley generation’. Nicknamed ‘The King of Bling’ by the tabloid press, Dyer was caught up in many of the scandals that characterised the history of a talented crop of players who promised so much and delivered so little, a generation whose wages and lavish lifestyles began to alienate them from the fans who once worshipped them.
The brash young man is gone now, and in his place is the quiet, caring, wise man who was such a favourite on I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here! in 2015. Dyer narrates, in uncompromising detail, how a generation of talented English footballers, taken out of working class childhoods and presented with a world of glitz, glamour, wealth and temptation, failed to cope with the riches that were presented to them and often fell apart. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late is about a moment in time, a social and historical record of English football at the start of its gold rush. For Dyer, the end of the book brings a measure of personal redemption and peace but for the English game, there is only a lingering sense of waste and regret for an opportunity lost.