Five times footballers and managers physically clashed with fans
Tottenham‘s Eric Dier wasn’t the first footballer to snap and decide to physically confront fans in the stands, and he won’t be the last.
Given the volatile nature of the game, and how often some fans can’t help but be utter d*ckheads, it’s actually quite surprising that incidents of this nature don’t occur more often.
We’ve taken a look at five occasions where football players and managers have clashed with fans – often their own.
Twenty-five years after another Eric’s infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park, Dier lost his cool with one of his own fans. He didn’t quite go in two-footed, but some striking footage and pictures emerged of him determinedly climbing up the rows to remonstrate with a fan following Tottenham’s penalty shootout defeat at home to Norwich in the FA Cup.
As is the case these days, Twitter was immediately alive with speculation about what had happened with plenty of “#Classy 👏👏👏” comments following suggestions he was responding to racist abuse. It didn’t take long for that to be debunked, with suggestions from the footage and Jose Mourinho that it was about insults toward his brother.
“I think Eric did what we as professionals cannot do but in these circumstances, I think everyone of us would do,” said his manager afterwards.
“Because when someone insults you & your family is there, and gets involved with the person who is insulting you, in this case a younger brother, I think Eric did what we professionals cannot do.”
First known usage: 20th century (1995) pic.twitter.com/LrQZaM2XjD
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) March 4, 2020
The former Manchester United left-back was suspended by Marseille after aiming a kick at a supporter in a Europa League clash away in Vitoria. He was sent off before the game even kicked off, and his side went on to lose 1-0 and exit the competition on away goals.
That was to be his final act for the French club, and his career came to an end shortly afterwards after an unmemorable short spell with West Ham.
Le high kick de Patrice Evra 😱 pic.twitter.com/Y83cBeN6z8
— BuzzDeFoot (@BuzzDeFoot) November 2, 2017
Nottingham Forest had just beaten QPR 5-2 to reach the League Cup semi-finals in 1989, but their manager was left fuming after the victory prompted a pitch invasion from their fans at the City Ground.
There’s a remarkable piece of footage in which the legendary coach steps onto the pitch like a wrestler entering the cell in Royal Rumble, decking a couple of Forest fans and grabbing another by the scruff of the neck.
A couple of days later, two of the fans he lamped were invited to meet the manager at the City Ground, with him demanding a personal apology from the pair…and a kiss on the cheek.
FLASHBACK: to 1989 and Brian Clough meets the pitch invaders he clipped round the ear. Cloughie makes them say sorry, give him a kiss and asks the all-important question…
💬”Now have you apologised to your mam and dad?”pic.twitter.com/4qcudCuVjZ
— Proper Football (@sid_lambert) May 20, 2018
Tensions were somewhat fraught at Lyon midway through the 2019-20 season, with the team underperforming on the pitch and Rudi Garcia controversially appointed, in charge of their hated rivals.
Garcia had already had to deal with the fallout of the Evra incident above, and he was left with the aftermath of star man Memphis Depay looking to rip a banner insulting one of his team-mates from the hands of a taunting supporter.
Fortunately, on this occasion there was nothing violent, but tensions between the side and their ultras remained strained.
You can see that Memphis Depay merely tried to grab the fan’s donkey banner & did not attack him. pic.twitter.com/TXvoHNez2t
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 10, 2019
In terms of clashes with fans, it will be hard to find something quite as dramatic as Eric Cantona’s dive into the crowd, his subsequent nine-month ban and the threat of criminal charges (which he eventually avoided).
The incident gave us one of the all-time great bits of radio commentary, with Jonathan Pearce somehow already turned all the way up to 11 before he even kicked the fan. A quarter of a century later, we’re still not sure if his blood pressure has returned to normal.
Annual revisit of Jonathan Pearce's Capital Gold commentary on Cantona's kung-fu kick.
A John Cooper Clarke-esque spoken-word masterpiece: pic.twitter.com/FB2ey0Bvk9
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) January 25, 2017