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Criticism is just part of the game

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Jack Ross | 16:10 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

How often have we heard a manager or player make the comment "it's part of the game"?

This remark is usually accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and is a sign of a grudging acceptance of some of the more difficult aspects of football. Injuries are one such area, but in the week that saw Scotland struggle to defeat Liechtenstein, criticism is another.

I do not believe that many people in any walk of life enjoy being criticised and in that respect footballers are no different.

The criticism that a player can face comes in varying forms, from being pilloried by their manager to being booed and abused by their own supporters and hammered by the press.

While the reason for any of this unfavourable judgement is usually a poor performance or result, it is fair to say that individual players will respond very differently to being faulted by coaches, fans or pundits.

Kenny Miller shrugged aside criticism from the fans and fired in the equaliser against Liechtenstein. Photo: SNS.

There will be very few players, if any, who have never felt the wrath of their manager during a half-time interval. This was the reason I found it surprising that so much was made of Craig Levein's alleged criticism of James McFadden during the break of the Liechtenstein fixture.

A manager will always have the right to be critical but equally I am not sure if we should always expect a player to silently accept the criticism.

Football is a very passionate, adrenaline-packed game where emotions can usually be far greater than they would be under more sedate circumstances, and hence the reason why a manager will often accept some argument from a player being criticised and hope that they are able to channel their anger in the correct manner.

This is probably the key issue with criticism in football - how does a player respond to it? I have always found the harsh words from within a dressing room fairly easy to deal with as it only strengthens your resolve to turn a performance around, and most importantly the comments have stayed within the confines of your own changing room.

Abuse from your own supporters is something which I haven't suffered from too much in a personal sense but I have been involved in games where as a team you are being barracked (at times with justification, other times not so!) from your own fans.

On these occasions, it is a test of character for players. I know that some will read this and say that players should easily deal with boos or abuse but at times it can certainly hinder some players' performances.

A great example of how the top players achieve their success was evident in Scotland's game against Liechtenstein.

Prior to Kenny Miller's equaliser, he had suffered the audible frustrations from the home crowd after a couple of slack passes and yet still had the concentration and belief to score a fantastic goal only seconds later.

This unerring bravery to continue to want the ball and put your neck on the line is a factor in separating players at different levels of the game.

In the modern game, media coverage has increased dramatically and the platforms on which opinion can be offered has been extended beyond match reports to columns, radio shows and after-match TV analysis.

For a player it is therefore almost impossible to escape from any negative assessment of their performance, and all players have very different opinions on how fair or excessive these appraisals can be.

My own view is that it can be over the top, but, after all, opinions make for better headlines and greater debate. In my career, there have most definitely been occasions when I have disagreed with comments about my performance but not any that have affected my own confidence or performances.

Are there players who can be affected by press coverage? Of course there is, but if you are happy to accept the plaudits and glory sometimes, you have to suffer a little the other way.

Finally to finish this week's blog a more light-hearted story about a player dealing with criticism. I played in a game where my team conceded a late goal to lose the match and the manager vented his anger at a younger player for his role in the loss of this goal.

After suffering several minutes of the gaffer's appraisal and feeling he was being victimised, the player found his voice to respond.

A few expletives were followed by "I am fed up being made the guinea pig!" Of course, he meant scapegoat - not a good way to avoid a ribbing from your team mates but a great way to stop a manager in mid-rant!


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice blog Jack..the usual opinion we get from players recieving criticism from supporters is that as professionals' they 'tend to block all crowd noise out' which obviously isn't the case? British supporters on the whole are quite well renowned for backing their teams when things aren't going so well compared to many of their foreign counterparts - a point often picked up by overseas players themselves. (maybe they just don't understand the swear words ;)

    Despite Rooney's post-Algeria rant about the England supporters' voicing their frustration at paying thousands of pounds to travel hundreds of miles to witness lack of percieved effort, even they seem to be quickly back on side.

    Great story about the young players retort to his manager's criticism...any more funny stories like that out there?

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog and some interesting observations. Often wondered myself how players handle some of the abuse they get from fans: some of it just being unaccpetable in any other arena but a football match it seems. I watch a bit of junior football and the stuff some of these guys have to listen to (from their own fans as well as the opposition support) is just incredible.

    I also made the mistake of taking my two very young girls to a game one saturday who quite rightly asked me why people were allowed to shout and swear at players. That was actually the easy question to answer, the difficult ones being what some terms actually meant! Not for a few years will they be back at any football match!

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good blog, Jack. Interesting to get the insight to whether players really are affected by criticism. I think players react to it differently and Kenny Miller against Liechenstein is a good example, booed for not playing at his best then he rifles in an important goal. Other players just seem to drop their head and either drift out of games or make a mistake.

    Ps. Was the 'Guinea Pig' David Barron?

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you for your comments.

    A further point worth mentioning is that undoubtedly a player with confidence will find any criticism easier to handle. Those low in confidence may find it more difficult, but ultimately good performances breeds improved self belief which in turn leads to lots of plaudits-sound easy!!

    I could not possibly reveal my former team mates identity but it wasn't David Barron!!


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