Eric Dier started Saturday for Tottenham Hotspur at Turf Moor against Burnley. When he'll start next remains to be seen.
The Spurs defender charged into the stands at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the Lilywhites' FA Cup loss to Norwich on Wednesday, confronting a fan who Dier alleged was abusing his brother. The Football Association is investigating the altercation, as are Tottenham and London Metropolitan Police.
Eric Dier just came into the stand and had a fight with fan next to me 😱 pic.twitter.com/nMGVcDWegX— Jascha Selby (@jselby123) March 4, 2020
Dier had the sympathy of manager José Mourinho and the backing of Tottenham Hotspur supporters, who sang "I love Eric Dier, Eric Dier loves me" from the away end at Turf Moor on Saturday. NBC Sports soccer analysts Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino sympathized, too, but they fully expect Dier to face discipline from the FA.
"I think protecting your family is almost like a basic instinct, and I think his instinct to protect took over his control as a professional," Earle said on "Premier League Mornings" on Saturday. "He saw a situation where his brother was involved and felt he had to go into the stands. I think he will end up in trouble. I think the FA will have to look at it. Stands are places that players shouldn't be just like fans shouldn't be on the football pitch, and I sympathize with him for his actions. But I do think that the FA will look at it."
Earle played nearly two decades for Port Vale and Wimbledon, while Martino played seven seasons for MLS' Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy. Both dealt with abuse from fans and understand why Dier was drawn into the stands Wednesday.
They viewed the field's boundaries and a stadium's barriers as sacrosanct, however. Martino noted that fans going onto the pitch can result in stadium bans, and he felt players can't cross the line the other way, either.
"What if that fan started coming towards him, and a fight ensued?" Martino rhetorically asked. " ... It's tough because I totally feel for him, and I understand why he wanted to do that, but for the safety of not doing those things because of what it can start, you've gotta stay out of the stands."
Mourinho told reporters he didn't think the club should discipline Dier, and he didn't want to address the situation in a pre-match interview with Sky Sports before Tottenham's match at Burnley.
The FA's decision likely will be just as clear-cut, but don't expect Dier to be spared punishment. Even if they understand why he ran into the stands in the first place.