ERIC DIER is relieved to be talking about football, happy enough at Tottenham to have signed a new contract, but has still got a lot to get off his chest over his FA ban for confronting a fan in the stands.
A lockdown lag meant Dier’s four-game punishment for reacting to a supporter’s abuse after a March FA cup defeat by Norwich was not meted out until earlier this month.
Now the England international hero of the 2018 World Cup, still only 26, wants to use his words rather than his intimidating physical presence to shine a light on the problems footballers and their families are facing from vitriolic fans.
“On the abuse, it’s a massive problem,” Dier lamented. “It’s a massive problem in society in general because of social media, football stadium, sports stadiums in general.
“It’s a huge problem that needs to be looked at much more seriously and there needs to be much more repercussions. It’s a huge problem. I think 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.”
The flashpoint took place when Dierbelieved his younger brother Patrick was facing in danger from an angry Tottenham fan after the club’s shock defeat. The supporter has since visited the club’s to apologise and manager Jose Mourinho says he will be welcome back as and when all supporters are next season.
“I’m not going to risk getting in any more trouble because my views on it are very strong,” Dier stated.
His main concern now is cementing role as a central defender under the manager who tried to lure him to Manchester United in 2017, having often been regarded a utility player since he arrived from Sporting Lisbon six years ago.
Last season culminated in Tottenham’s unlikely appearance in a Champions League Final, where they lost to Liverpool.
A poor start to this season resulted in the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino.
Dier said he decided to sign a four-year contract for Mourinho’s Tottenham as they match his ambition to challenge for trophies.
Already sure of at least seventh place, they need to beat Crystal Palace today (SUN) and hope Wolves drop points at Chelsea to finish sixth and be guaranteed of competing for European silverware next season.
Seventh spot means Arsenal could deny them a Europa League place by winning next Saturday’s FA Cup Final. Like Pochettino’s, it is a scenario that makes many a Tottenham person shudder.
“First and foremost, I was far from happy when Pochettino got the sack,” Dier recalls.
“But if anyone was going to replace him, I’m very happy that it was Mourinho.
“I think we have a very good working relationship. I’m enjoying a lot working under him. I very lucky and privileged to have worked first with Pochettino and now for Mourinho.
“He’s constantly pushing me, he’s constantly pushing everyone. I was delighted when he arrived, not just for me personally but for the clear direction the club wanted to go in because I know that he’s a manager that is only interested in winning trophies.”
And he can perhaps help Dier reassert himself in Gareth Southgate’s European Championship plans next summer – as a defender.
He concluded: “It would be nice to set this record straight so I don’t have to talk about it anymore. It’s not something that has changed overnight for me personally. For about three years, I’ve seen that as the position in which I wanted to play.
“It’s the position I grew up in, when I signed for Tottenham I played there. When we played in a back three at Tottenham, I played most of the season there. And I always felt it was the position where I believed in myself the most, and the position I could excel in the most.”
“I knew I had to be patient but I had conversations with Pochettino about two years ago, this preseason, and when Mourinho arrived, I had the conversation with him. His message to me was very clear: ‘Ok, prove it to me.’ So yeah, I have worked very hard at it, he has put his belief in me there.”