Eric Dier has revealed that his close relatives are no longer going to away games due to the violence they hear in stadiums, which he says is getting worse and is a “huge, huge problem” for football.
The Tottenham centre-back, who has returned to the England squad for the first time since March 2021 after finding the best form of his career, took to the stands to confront an enemy fan following his club’s home defeat against Norwich in the FA Cup in March 2020.
Dier, who was banned from four games and fined £40,000, had feared for the safety of his younger brother, Patrick, who had become embroiled in an argument with the supporter. Dier did not reach the fan, it turned and fled when he saw it coming. Dier said Tuesday he has no regrets and would do it again to protect a loved one.
Dier is a hesitant spokesperson for a topic that has been bothering him privately for some time. Even at St George’s Park – ahead of Friday’s Nations League match in Italy and Monday’s Wembley match against Germany in the same league – he tried to brush it off as not overly dramatic. But he could get a few things off his chest.
“It’s definitely gotten worse” [since the incident in March 2020]’ said Dier. “For me it is a serious problem. I had some family and friends at the Chelsea away game with Tottenham [at the start of this season] and they had problems. Not a nice one either. It’s a huge, huge problem. It was verbal, not physical, but bad stuff. One incident was in the Tottenham tip. I want to emphasize that they were both sets of fans. I’m not saying they’re Chelsea fans or Tottenham fans – they’re football fans in general.
“I never complain about things like this and I don’t mind. We played Burnley after I went into the stands for the next away game and the Burnley fans sang a song about my brother and I like that sort of thing. I think it’s pretty funny. I like that kind of humor… when it’s in the right way. I like to play away games and enjoy that kind of atmosphere. It’s part of it.
“But there are things that I find very strange. It is not fun. My family would therefore never go to an away game these days and it’s a shame I’m too uncomfortable to go. This has been the case for years. My mom didn’t go to an away game. She’d like to, but I’d be worried about it, and that’s crazy, isn’t it? All our families go through it. Every player’s parents have been watching them since they were kids and have been through things like that.”
Dier looked back at the incident with the abusive supporter after the cup game in Norwich. “I’ve never talked about that situation in the press before because, frankly, I wasn’t happy at all with the way it was handled. I don’t know what to say because I don’t know if I will be banned or fined again.
“It wasn’t too dramatic, as people make it out to be. But hey, I don’t regret it at all and would do it again in a heartbeat. [For] my family, my teammates, anyone, a friend of mine. I consider myself very loyal.”
Dier became a sort of scapegoat for Spurs’ implosion under Jose Mourinho in the second half of the 2020-21 season, reaching a low point when he missed the European Championship in the summer of 2021.
But Dier has been reborn at Spurs under Antonio Conte, who took over as manager in November last year, and now Gareth Southgate has returned to a fixture of his 2018 World Cup England squad, which reached the semi-finals.
“I don’t want to sound like a teacher’s pet, but he… [Conte] has done a lot for me – in every way,” said Dier. “Since he arrived, I have never learned so much. He is the godfather of that [three-at-the-back] system, so within that you are constantly evolving. He probably gave me a little bit of my faith too. I think I have reached my best level in my career, not only this season, but also last season. I’m getting better and I can get better.”
Dier, who won the last of his 45 caps against Iceland in November 2020, was asked about the possibility of making it to half a century. “It would mean a lot. It’s something that when I wasn’t on the squad it played into my mind that I was so close to it. That irritated me. I would really like to reach such a milestone. I’ve seen they have a sign at the hotel reception now? [at St Georges’ Park] of all the people who made 50 and 100. It is a dream to be able to achieve that.”