Eric Dier believes fan behavior has become a “serious problem” in English football and has admitted his family members do not travel to away games for fear of abuse.
The 28-year-old was handed a four-game ban and fined £40,000 by the Football Association in July 2020 for misconduct after he confronted a fan who slammed his brother after an FA Cup tie between Tottenham and Norwich in the Tottenham in the stands abused Hotspur Stadium.
Dier, who has been recalled to Gareth Southgate’s England squad after a two-year absence for Uefa Nations League games against Italy and Germany, revealed that his friends and family said during Tottenham’s Premier League game against Chelsea on March 14 that the situation has deteriorated in recent years.
“It’s definitely gotten worse. It’s a serious problem for me,” he said. “I had some family and friends at the Chelsea away game against Tottenham and they were struggling and stuff. Not nice ones either. It’s a huge, huge problem. It was verbal, not physical – but sort of like bad stuff.
Dier, who stressed that the problem isn’t limited to fans of specific clubs, added: “I never complain about this stuff and it doesn’t really bother me. 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 kind of thing – I think it’s quite funny. I like that kind of humor, you know, when it’s right. I love that side of things. I love away games and enjoy that kind of atmosphere. It’s part of it.
“But there are some things that I find very strange. It’s not nice. My family would never go to an away game because of that – and it’s a shame that I feel too uncomfortable when they go to away games. It’s been years. My mother has never been to an away game. She’d love to do it, but I’d be worried – and that’s crazy, isn’t it? All of our families go through this. Every player’s parents have been watching them since they were kids and going through stuff like that.”
Dier’s return to England is the result of strong performances at club level with Spurs and with other established defenders like Harry Maguire struggling for form and minutes, he was nonetheless able to force his way into Southgate’s starting line-up for the World Cup opener against Iran on 21 November .
Antonio Conte has made the longtime defender the heart of his back three and Dier admits the Italian has improved his game a lot, calling him the ‘godfather’ of the 3-4-3 formation.
“I don’t want to sound like a teacher’s pet, but he’s done a lot for me,” Dier said. “In every way he has done a lot for me. He influenced me a lot in every way, tactically, physically, mentally. my approach Not just the manager, but all his employees.
“He’s very demanding, but I enjoy that a lot. I’ve never learned so much this year since he arrived. I don’t think I’ve learned as much from him before as I do now. About football, about everything related to football like me. I really enjoyed it.”
“He’s the godfather of that system, so I feel like you’re constantly learning with him and evolving within that system, constantly adding new things – once we’ve learned one thing, we’re on to the next. I think he probably gave me back my faith a bit too.”
Dier was an integral part of the England squad in the early Southgate era, scoring the memorable penalty in the shoot-out against Colombia in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup, but was left out of the squad for last summer’s European Championship.
Despite that disappointment, Dier admitted he watched “a lot of games”, including the final which England lost to Italy on penalties.
“I had a lot of very good friends who played in that game and I would have been over the moon for them, the manager, the staff,” he said. “I just really watched it like any other fan, I would have seen it regardless of the teams in it. I saw the semifinals, the Germany game.
“To be honest, when I think of the euro, it’s the first thing that comes to mind [former Tottenham teammate] Christian [Eriksen, who suffered a heart attack while playing for Denmark].
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life that I’ve never really lost anyone close to me. That was just a really bad day. I’ve been watching on TV – I can’t really talk about it, man. It was hard.
“He was a good friend of mine. Luckily he is a good friend of mine.”