Saturday interview: Why Bruce Dyer is in love with life outside football

For a large portion of professional footballers retirement does not so much creep up on them, it whacks them straight between the eyes.

Bruce Dyer: Celebrating one of his goals for Barnsley.

For years and years, players form their existences around routine, preparation and competition.

Then suddenly that is all taken away from them.

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No more locker-room banter, no more plush travelling en route to matches.

Ed Miliband and Bruce Dyer

Many are left with a big gap in their lives.

Sure, they may be good for a few bob or two but in terms of happiness and feeling like they have a purpose, plenty of ex-pros can testify to having taken an age to adjust to life after football – some never adjust at all.

Bruce Dyer does not fall into any of those categories.

In the decade since he hung up his boots for the final time, the former Barnsley striker has been quietly going about making a success of his company, Love Life.

Ed Miliband and Bruce Dyer

The initiative, started by Bruce and wife Janine, involves visiting schools around the town offering Christian advice, sports coaching and teaching of general life skills.

He also delivers faith talks in prisons, where he is a chaplain.

It is a stark change of pace for someone who was the first teenager to be signed for £1m and who plundered over 100 league goals.

His transition may raise the odd eyebrow but the 42-year-old insists his new vocation is truly a labour of love.

Dyer told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve always wanted to do stuff in the community, and Love Life allows me to do that.

“Whether it’s putting on festivals, sports events or giving talks, I like to generally serve the community.

“I’ve been brought up to be that way. A lot of it is faith-driven but I believe I was born to serve this community and to do good to people.

“I just want to make a difference in people’s lives.

“The stuff I do in schools is just sport and life skills, not faith-based.

“Some get me to do talks about Christianity and my faith.

“It’s about getting the balance.

“It’s been a phenomenal journey since we started it 10 years ago.

“The sports side of things has really grown.

“We started out at just one school, but now we’re at 15 and working with hundreds of kids each week.

“I still really enjoy it and I try to treat people how I want to be treated.

“I’m not over-bearing with my faith.

“I’m never going to be ashamed of my faith, but I don’t push it in people’s faces either.”

On the topic of faith, Dyer admits that his Christianity was at times mocked by his peers during his playing days.

He does, however, recall entering into sensible discussion around faith with a current Premier League manager.

Dyer said: “I used to get stick all the time but I’m never going to be ashamed of my faith.

“It’s who I am.

“When I was playing, I used to have loads of debates with Sean Dyche when we were at Watford.

“We had good banter and good conversations about it.”

Faith has always been important to Dyer but it took on an even greater significance 20 years ago.

He revealed: “In 1998 I hit a major, major brick wall in my life.

“I’d hit a really tough patch in life. I started to drink a bit too much and I put that down to depression.

“It was my faith that really pulled me out of that rut and that’s been the foundation of my life ever since.”

Probably the most prolific period of his playing career came when he arrived at Barnsley in October, 1998.

His five-year spell at Oakwell made such an impression on him that he quickly upped sticks from down South and now regards the town as home.

That is despite being effectively forced out of the club following two requests to cut his wages.

Despite the distasteful departure, Dyer bears no grudges and still very much keeps an eye on proceedings at his former club.

He is hopeful the present-day incumbents of the Reds shirts can preserve their Championship status under Jose Morais.

Dyer said: “When I first came to the club, we’d just got relegated from the Premier League.

“The club was under a bit of financial pressure and there was a few different managers.

“But, it’s still a really good club and has loads of potential.

“I still go to the odd game now and then.

“They’re up against it at the moment, but there’s other teams that are doing worse.

“I really hope that they survive.”

Prior to his Oakwell exploits, Dyer had come through the ranks at Watford before being snapped up by Palace for the then record fee for a teenager.

Despite the eye-watering sums of money involved at the time, Dyer insists he took it all in his stride – something, no doubt, that his faith helped him with.

“It happened all so quick but I was absolutely over the moon – I was buzzing,” he added.

“But it wasn’t about the fee for me.

“I put that down to my humble upbringing and I wasn’t fazed by the fee at all.

“I was just a normal kid, given an opportunity which I was grateful for.

“All I thought of was that I was joining Palace because they were top of the second tier and I was just thinking about being in the Premier League the next year.

“That went on to happen, which was really good.”

Dyer appears to be content with his lot at present and he certainly has no desire to stray back into the professional game as a coach or manager.

Despite his rich pedigree as a player and his current role working in the sport, he is adamant he has found his calling.

“If I’m honest, I don’t want to be in a professional academy or be a manager,” he added.

“It wouldn’t be right for me.

“That’s because my heart is working within a community and trying to make a difference to people’s lives.”