Eric Dier has revealed that his closest family members no longer attend away matches because of the abuse they hear inside stadiums, which he feels is getting worse and represents a “huge, huge problem” for football.
The Tottenham centre-half, who is back in the England squad for the first time since March 2021 having located the best form of his career, famously went into the stands to confront a hostile fan after his club’s home defeat against Norwich in the FA Cup in March 2020.
Dier, who was banned for 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, who turned and fled when he saw him coming. Dier said on Tuesday that he had no regrets and would do it again to protect a loved one.
Dier is a reluctant spokesman for a subject that has privately bothered him for some time. Even at St George’s Park – before the Nations League tie in Italy on Friday and the Wembley fixture on Monday in the same competition against Germany – he attempted to shrug it off as not being overly dramatic. But he was able to get a few things off his chest.
“It has definitely got worse [since the incident in March 2020],” Dier said. “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 nice ones, either. It is a huge, huge problem. It was verbal, not physical but, like, bad stuff. One incident was in the Tottenham away end. I want to emphasise that it was both sets of fans. I am not saying it is Chelsea fans or Tottenham fans – it is football fans in general.
“I never complain about this stuff and I don’t really mind. We played Burnley after I went in the stands for the next away game and the Burnley fans were singing a song about my brother and I like that kind of thing. I find it quite funny. I like that kind of humour … if it is in the right way. I love playing away games and I enjoy those kinds of atmospheres. It is part of it.
“But there are some things I find very strange. It is not nice. My family would never go to an away game nowadays because of it and that’s a shame that I feel too uncomfortable for them to go. This has been for years. My Mum has not been to an away game. She would love to but I would be worried about it, and that’s crazy, isn’t it? All of our families go through it. Every player’s parents have been watching them since they were kids and have gone through that kind of stuff.”
Dier reflected on the incident with the abusive supporter after the Norwich cup tie. “I’ve never spoken about that situation in the press before because, to be honest, I wasn’t at all happy with the way it was handled. I don’t know what I can say about it because I don’t know if I’ll get banned or fined again.
“It wasn’t too dramatic, like people make it out to be. But yeah, I don’t regret it at all and I’d do it again. [For] my family, my teammates, anyone, a friend of mine. I consider myself to be extremely loyal.”
Dier became something of a scapegoat for Spurs’ implosion under José Mourinho over the second half of the 2020-21 season and a low point came when he missed out on the European Championship in the summer of 2021.
But Dier has been reborn at Spurs under Antonio Conte, who took over as the manager in November of last year, and now Gareth Southgate has turned back to a stalwart of his England team from the 2018 World Cup, 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 aspect,” Dier said. “Ever since he arrived, I have never learnt so much. He is the godfather of that [three-at-the-back] system so you’re constantly evolving within that. He probably gave me my belief back a little bit as well. I think I’ve reached my best level in my career, not just this season but last season as well. 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 reaching the half-century. “It would mean a lot. It’s something that when I wasn’t in the squad it was playing on my mind that I was so close to it. That did annoy me. I would love to be able to get to that kind of milestone. I’ve seen they’ve got a board up now in the reception of the hotel [at St Georges’ Park] of all the people who have made 50 and 100. It’s a dream to be able to reach that.”