BURTON Albion midfielder Jack Dyer is relishing the possibility of pitting his wits against a Champions League winner tonight having forced his way back into boss Gary Rowett’s starting line-up.
The 21-year-old was recalled for the Brewers’ gritty 1-1 draw at in-form Chesterfield on Saturday following a six-game spell on the substitutes’ bench, and he is hoping to have done enough to retain his place and get the chance to face Dutch midfield legend Edgar Davids at Barnet.
Davids, 39, took over as player-joint manager at Underhill in October after a glittering career which included spells at some of the biggest clubs in Europe — Ajax (twice), AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Inter Milan.
The Suriname-born player won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995 as well as the 1992 UEFA Cup and three Eredivisie titles with the Dutch giants.
He also helped Juventus to three Serie A championships during his time in Turin.
Davids now finds himself, in the twilight of his career, plying his trade with a Barnet side who are propping up the League Two table, but Dyer, still trying to establish himself in the game, is relishing the chance to do battle with a modern-day great.
He said of the possibility of coming up against Davids this evening: “It will be a great experience if it happens, it’s always good playing against players like that, but it’s not often at this level you get to play against so-called world-class players, so it will be good.
“That’s what you should aspire to in football — to play against the best players and test yourself.
“I was surprised, obviously, by his move to Barnet, but I think he’s doing all right there.”
Dyer, in his third season at the Pirelli Stadium, is again in a battle to become a regular.
He made just four starts and one substitute appearance in his first season following his release by Aston Villa, where he had been a star of their Academy side.
Injury problems ruined the beginning of his 2011/12 campaign, restricting him to just two starts and one substitute appearances before February, though he did score his only goal for the club in a 6-3 triumph at Barnet in October 2011.
However, as Albion slumped from play-off contenders to relegation candidates, Dyer came to the fore, making the majority of his 17 starts in the final three months of the campaign.
He would have been hoping to continue that run this season, but the summer arrivals of Lee Bell and Robbie Weir saw him once again back on the bench.
He has yet to start more than three successive games, but he played against Chesterfield and boss Gary Rowett’s recent desire to adopt a 4-5-1 formation away from home, coupled with Bell being suspended for the trip to Barnet, should see him retain his place.
“It was great to be in the starting line-up,” the midfielder said after the Chesterfield game.
“I’ve been training well and stuff, and that’s all you can do when you’re not in the side — keep going and then when you get a chance, take it.
“I mean, I’ve had more game time than last year, but I want to build on that, you know, no-one’s happy when they’re not playing, but you can either sulk about it or train hard and put yourself in the gaffer’s mind.
“This formation means there is an extra space in midfield — that’s the way to look at it.
“I can only just prepare myself right and then try and do well.
“I hope to be involved on Friday. I’ll prepare this week the way I always do, train hard and we’ll see what happens on Friday.”
Dyer knows the busy festive period could be crucial to both himself and the Brewers, and he realises they cannot take Barnet lightly having lost to fellow strugglers Aldershot Town and Wycombe Wanderers in recent weeks.
He said: “We all know in this league that anyone can beat anyone, so we’ll have to go to Barnet, prepare as we normally do and go and pick up the points.
“The Wycombe and Aldershot defeats show you can’t take anyone lightly in this league, we’ve got to go there with the same attitude, same preparation and do the same as we have done today, and that’s get some points on the board.
“It’s a big period for us now — a quick build-up of games — and we’ve got to be on it every game really.
“Having a good squad and stuff, we should be able to do that.”
Having taken the lead, the Brewers had to endure a second-half barrage at the Proact Stadium on Saturday, and while they did eventually concede an equaliser, Dyer was happy enough with the point.
He said: “Yeah, the lads were happy with a draw.
“It’s always disappointing when you go 1-0 up but, you know, them winning the last four, they were always gonna put pressure on in the second half, so I think a point’s a good result.
“Credit to the lads, we knew we had to be resilient. You’re always gonna get that away from home, they were always gonna bring on the pressure, and just to concede the one goal, I thought we did well.
“We were disappointed that we couldn’t hang on but, you know, even then, with still 15 minutes to go, you’re thinking if they’re gonna get a winner, but the lads dug in there.
“We’ve only conceded one goal in the last three games and it’s a good base.
“We can build from the back as long as we’re solid and don’t give away stupid, silly goals, and then we can let our football do the talking.
“It was always going to be a tough game coming here. We spoke about that before the game, you know, they’ve been in good form and stuff so we knew we had to be resilient, but I thought first half we still played some good football and, you know, I think it was a good result.
“It’s always a busy period over Christmas, so if we can come to places like this and pick up a point, that’s good confidence for the lads.
“We go into the next game looking to do the same against Barnet.”