Nobody ever had a bad word to say about Son Heung-min. The Tottenham forward is a tireless, tenacious frontman, with a brilliant eye for goal. His constant running and endeavour endeared him to football fans. However, things seem to have changed. Never has the perception of a player altered so much it feels.
Once lauded, he is starting to irk some.
Rival fans have become irritated by Son with claims a different side of him has come to the fore this season. Diving and looking to get rivals booked was angled at him during Spurs’ FA Cup victory. How perfect though, that his manager is now Jose Mourinho?
The Spurs boss is no stranger to splitting opinion. A divisive character from the start, he will enjoy his players winning at any costs and will never try to dilute nastiness from their game. More and more on social media, people point to his disciplinary record to insist he’s not as ‘nice’ on the pitch as everyone assumed.
In 2019, Tottenham star Son Heung-min became the first player since Lee Cattermole in 2010 to be sent off three times in the calendar year. For a player with a glowing reputation previously, it’s a stat used to back up those who have started to be angered by his perceived petulance on the pitch.
In May, he was dismissed for kicking out at Jefferson Lerma during Spurs’ 1-0 defeat by Bournemouth. Son was sent off after reacting violently to a physical tussle. He’s not bad, though there has been a suggestion that there can be red mist for a player so applauded in the past for his attitude.
That won’t bother Mourinho one jot.
Tottenham fans, too, rightly stick up for their player but more and more opposition supporters are voicing their ire. The little niggly displays of mischief he shows on the pitch are now being used against him, but when did this fan vengeance really start to boil over? It perhaps started after his tackle on Andre Gomes at Goodison Park resulted in a sickening ankle injury for the Everton midfielder.
The stadium has never been so deadly silent. Everyone silent with shock and utter despair as Gomes screamed out in agony.
It’s a contentious one, but for some inside the ground that day, while Son meant no serious ill-will towards Gomes, his intention wasn’t to get the ball after the two had appeared to have a coming-together minutes earlier. It was not malicious by Son but one could certainly claim it was reckless.
While the tackle was wrong, what really caused a stir in the week after was how the narrative seemed to change in favour of Son. Gomes became a forgotten man by the media in the eyes of Evertonians.
Son was left in tears by the incident and sent off. Such was the distress of everyone involved, some Everton players even comforted Son. In the days that followed though, the media reported updates on Son’s well-being. A traumatic experience, of course, but what about Gomes who would lose months of his season due to the tackle.
Scoring against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League he gestured an apology to the cameras. It didn’t go down well with the Blues contingent.
Since the Everton incident has perhaps highlighted his proficiency for Son to agitate. Match-going fans have started to air little instances of Son’s ability to annoy the opposition. In fact, his ability is what perhaps fuels the irritation. He’s a top player who can hurt sides in an instant.
Not hated or loathed but it feels his previous reputation is long gone and he is now a player fans like to dislike.