Eric Dier has described the abuse footballers must endure from fans as a “massive problem” and he wants the authorities to treat it more seriously and hand out greater punishments to offenders.
The Tottenham player put himself at the centre of a storm in March when he went into the crowd after his club’s FA Cup penalty shootout loss at home to Norwich to confront a supporter who had hurled obscenities at him. The 26-year-old’s youngest brother, Patrick, had become embroiled in an altercation with the fan, which prompted Dier to take action, reports The Guardian.
Dier was stunned when the Football Association banned him for four matches, having believed that his defence of moving to protect a family member would stand up – not to mention the mitigating circumstances of the abuse itself. But the independent panel ruled Dier had sought out the supporter rather than his brother at a crucial “fork in the road” moment and his behaviour had made the fan feel threatened.
Dier believes the time is not right to discuss the incident. “I’m not going to risk getting in any more trouble, because my views on it are very strong,” he said. But he did make his feelings plain on the broader subject of abuse from supporters.
“It’s a massive problem,” Dier said. “It’s a massive problem in society in general because of social media, football stadiums, sports stadiums in general. It needs to be looked at much more seriously and there needs to be much more repercussions. It is being addressed, but it needs to be addressed even more. I have no problem with anyone criticising my footballing ability at any time, but when it’s anything more than that then there is a big problem.”
Dier served the fourth game of his suspension last Sunday, when Spurs beat Leicester 3-0 at home, and he is available to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in Sunday’s final round of Premier League matches when his club will attempt to secure Europa League qualification. Spurs have won five of eight since football’s restart, drawing two.
Dier has enjoyed a new lease of life under José Mourinho, who has moved him from defensive midfield to centre-half – the position he has long wanted to fill. He believes in Mourinho so completely, both in the manager’s vision for him personally and the squad as a whole, that he committed this week to a new four-year contract. Dier’s old deal was set to expire next June.
It is well documented Mourinho wanted to sign Dier for Manchester United in 2017. For the player, who grew up in Portugal and followed Mourinho’s exploits, it feels almost strange he can now call him a work colleague.
“Playing with Wayne Rooney [for England], being managed by Mourinho – you can’t imagine that when you’re a kid,” Dier said. “It never seems realistic. But time is a funny thing. I was delighted when Mourinho arrived, not just for me but because it showed clearly the direction the club wanted to go in.
“He’s a manager that is only interested in winning trophies and the one thing I know is that he will go into every competition trying to win it. His history speaks for itself. Everywhere he has gone, he has won. That fills me with confidence but not just that, it carries a very heavy weight. So we need to listen to everything he says and follow him if we want to do the same here.”
Dier said his wish to be considered as a specialist central defender has not happened overnight, rather it is something that has been on his mind for “about three years”. He spoke to the former Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino about it on several occasions and he did so with Mourinho when the Portuguese joined the club last November.
“Mourinho’s message to me was very clear: ‘OK, prove it to me,’” Dier said. “I never want to be seen as a utility player, even if I am always available to play anywhere for the team. I felt like turning 26, it was time for me to specialise, to stick my neck out and say: ‘This is where I see myself, this is where I can be one of the best.’
“We have the Palace game which is huge for us but I’m really excited for next season, to have a pre-season with the manager and a clean slate in terms of the table with the manager.”