EVEN a stopped clock is right twice a day — and Jose Mourinho was correct about Eric Dier.
The Tottenham boss said on Wednesday night: “He did what we professionals cannot do but probably every one of us would do.”
Every professional who watched the Spurs midfielder clambering through the stand to confront a fan who had seemingly upset his brother will have identified with his frustration.
After a bad night, Mourinho’s words were what the dressing room and the audience beyond needed to hear.
Two wrongs don’t make a right but they certainly make for a lively day on Twitter.
A lot of players have since texted me with their own grisly endings to the story had their brother been involved. Most of what was suggested made Eric Cantona look like Gandhi.
Elsewhere, the fake outrage is as laughable as it is predictable.
Two guys squared up and then . . . well, nothing really happened.
I had mixed feelings. I was shocked, of course, that Dier hadn’t washed his hands after playing the game, let alone worn a mask when he was about to get into somebody’s face. Nike missed a branding opportunity there.
On the other hand, spotting an altercation way up in the stands while down on the pitch showed an awareness that hasn’t always been obvious in Eric’s game.
In the end it looked as if, like some of Spurs’ penalty takers, Dier had second-guessed himself in the run-up. By the time he had leapt the barrier and cleared more obstacles than a Grand National winner, he knew this was a bad idea.
I didn’t overly care what his gripe was, just that one of the idiots every stadium suffers from was about to get it back with both barrels.
After all, it’s not as if Dier’s response is without precedent. That tension has always been in the game.
In the past, broadcasters have generally turned the cameras away. Then mobile phones filled the void and now everybody is directing Fight Club.
Almost every player I know has had a run-in with a fan. One of my own experiences echoes that of Dier in that it involved my family.
After a game for Reading at the Madejski Stadium a gentleman (I use the term loosely or maybe incorrectly) in the players’ lounge announced to all present that I was a “useless piece of s***”.
When I arrived into the lounge, the same guy immediately thrust a copy of the match-day programme at me and asked if I might sign it.
SO MANY EXPLETIVES
My mother had been listening to him the whole time. On the drive home she told me what had happened and tears filled her eyes.
I turned the car around and sped back. Fortunately for all of us, the man had left.
Of course, in the stadium things are typically hostile.
When I was at Portsmouth we played a Championship match away from home in a very hostile environment.
I won’t give more detail as technically what happened was an assault . . . by me.
The tunnel brought us out through the home fans. The moment I emerged, the abuse started.
I had no idea there were so many expletives that worked well with the word “ginger”.
One fella was incredibly creative. He vehemently abused me for 45 minutes. Heading in for half-time his insults became louder as I got to the tunnel. Something snapped in my head.
In mitigation, as my lawyer might have said, my career was going down the pan, the club was in administration and depression was crippling me.
If somebody was going to pay, it might as well be this guy. I walked to him and grabbed him around the neck. I felt good.
He didn’t say a word. I could sense his courage draining out into a puddle at his feet.
He couldn’t look at me. I said that I’d allow him to say one more thing if he wanted to. He waived the chance all too readily.
Then I realised that my teammate Greg Halford was standing behind me, all 6ft 5in of him.
We scraped a draw from the game. I won’t tell you who scored the vital equaliser. OK, it was me.
At full-time, I ran straight to the tunnel to gloat but the guy had left the building.
The curious thing was that nobody in the crowd moved a muscle to help him.
Everybody pretended it wasn’t happening. The guy was on his own and I think that surprised him more than anything.
One thing I know about Dier’s adversary is that it’s now highly unlikely he’ll do this again.
Abusing people is easy from the cover of the crowd. When Eric waded in, only the stewards — who are paid to do so — jumped to the defence of the idiot who had been giving it out.
That should be the lesson.