Criticism is just part of the game
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.
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!