Eric Dier’s rush of blood to the head sums up Tottenham’s ugly season… they’re out of a cup they thought they could win and some fans still pine for Mauricio Pochettino
- Eric Dier took matters into his own hands to confront a supporter in the stands
- The pictures of Dier clambering angrily over luxury seating were emblematic
- He has received the backing of Jose Mourinho yet Dier is likely to be charged
- READ: The inside story on why Dier lost the plot and launched into the crowd
Eric Dier’s decision to cross the ancient boundary and storm the West Stand at White Hart Lane was not the first error of judgment by a Tottenham player on the night they crashed out of the FA Cup.
In fact, on a personal level, it had been a reasonably encouraging game for Dier. He had been solid enough at centre half, come within 12 minutes of a clean sheet and scored his penalty in the shootout against Norwich.
But he is one of the team’s warriors. It is a reason Jose Mourinho has been trying to find a way of restoring him to the team despite his form. And a reason why the Spurs boss was broadly supportive of him after the match.
Jose Mourinho backed Eric Dier after his outburst, but the actions summed up Spurs’ season
Social media saw a photo emerge of Dier climbing over rows of empty seats to get to the fan
Mourinho pitched it about right, aware that those players he cranks up to battle mode for the duration of a game can sometimes need time to decompress.
Dier had played for 120 minutes and lost a game his team had been expected to win, beaten at home by a side haunted by relegation, ousted from a competition they thought they might win.
Embarrassment, humiliation, anger, whatever he was feeling, he could have done without one moron at the back of the stands following it up with personal insults and locking into an argument with his brother which he feared might have been about to turn physical.
A huge commotion was caused after Dier saw a fan hurling abuse at his younger brother
All of which goes down as mitigation when it is time to explain his behaviour to the FA, the governing body once run by his grandfather, former secretary Ted Croker.
Little of it will wash, however, when discipline in the face of provocation is very much part of the job. Footballers have been subjected to vicious verbal abuse from the terraces for years. It is not acceptable but it is not a new trend.
Whether it is any worse these days is arguable. What is certain is that everyone has a smartphone and access to a social media account and it soon goes global.
Dier is not the first to snap — earlier this season it was Granit Xhaka at odds with the Arsenal fans — but beyond Eric Cantona it is hard to recall another instance of a player going into the crowd to take matters into his own hands.
Exactly what would have happened had Dier reached his intended target with the red mist swirling is anybody’s guess. Thankfully, this point was not reached. Partly because the culprit scarpered, like most bullies lacking the courage to engage face to face without the strength and anonymity of a crowd. Partly because some Spurs supporters did the right thing and crowded Dier and slowed his pursuit until some good sense descended.
Tottenham are confident they have identified the aggressor, a speedy resolution which will be greeted with a degree of puzzlement by Antonio Rudiger, who was disappointed to find those who allegedly racially abused him at the same stadium could not be identified.
Spurs are confident they have identified the aggressor but when Antonio Rudiger (above) complained of racist abuse no such swift action was taken
Perhaps next time Rudiger will feel the impulse to cross the divide and go in search of his own brand of justice. Hopefully not, because it was the incongruity of the situation which made for such arresting imagery.
The pictures of Dier clambering angrily over the luxury seating of Tottenham’s gleaming new home will endure as the emblem of a disorderly season long after any disciplinary process has blown over.
September: Dumped out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by Colchester of League Two.
October: A record 7-2 home defeat by Bayern Munich.
November: Fired their most popular manager in years and replaced him with a modern icon of despised rivals Chelsea.
December: Rudiger is allegedly racially abused during a defeat by the very same despised rivals.
January: Harry Kane injured.
February: Son Heung-min injured; Dele Alli’s coronavirus video.
March: FA Cup demise and Dier in the stands, possibly to be followed by a Champions League exit in Leipzig on Tuesday.
Tottenham have climbed the Premier League since Mourinho arrived, but some fans still pine for Mauricio Pochettino as the restlessness spreads.
Others accept that the problems started long before the managerial change and simply wonder when the club’s longest post-war trophy drought might end.
Mourinho’s appointment has been tolerated largely because he is a proven winner, however, and as more trophies slip by, the harmony inside the stadium will come under strain. At least Amazon are there to capture it all on film for their fly-on-the-wall documentary series.
It promises to be interesting viewing with a promotional image of Dier going rogue and clambering into the stands.
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