Ev­ery player gets abuse these days but I can han­dle it, in­sists mid­field ace Jeff

Daily Star Sunday - - RESULT! - Bren­dan Keane

JEFF HEN­DRICK says he can han­dle the stick he gets from fans.

The Ire­land and Burn­ley mid­fielder is cur­rently go­ing through a tough time for club and coun­try – left out of Sean Dy­che’s side while be­ing a part of Martin O’Neill’s team who are des­per­ately try­ing to recre­ate their Euro 2016 form.

While life is not easy, Hen­drick, 26, is old enough now to know that a thick skin is needed to cope with life as a pro.

He said: “Any­one will tell you, when I go out and play foot­ball I’m calm and noth­ing re­ally af­fects me.

“That’s just the way I am as a per­son so I don’t think too much about it.

“Peo­ple say the mod­ern day player is soft but what they may not re­alise is that ev­ery player has dif­fer­ent hur­dles to face through­out their ca­reer and that makes them the per­son they are.

“I think it is a silly com­ment for peo­ple to say that we don’t care or that we’re soft, be­cause at the end of the day, a lot of lads have to leave their fam­ily at 15, go away to a dif­fer­ent coun­try to try and make it.

“It’s not easy be­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­baller in Eng­land. I think foot­ballers have to be a lot more thick-skinned these days.

“Fans have a lot more ac­cess to play­ers through so­cial me­dia chan­nels. Ev­ery player gets abuse, that’s just the way it is.

“Every­one has their own right to an opin­ion and you’ve just got to get on with it be­cause if you don’t, if it does af­fect you, you can eas­ily crum­ble.”

The easy ad­vice is that a player should block it out. But Hen­drick has a dif­fer­ent take on that.

He said: “Block it out how? You see that neg­a­tiv­ity no mat­ter what.

“These sorts of peo­ple can shout what­ever they want on so­cial me­dia and we’re told as play­ers that we’re not al­lowed to say any­thing back.

“There’s noth­ing else you can do. Every­one has got their own opin­ion. I have read bad things about me. You deal with it.”

Some find it eas­ier to deal with than oth­ers – Hen­drick’s in­ter­na­tional team­mate Cyrus Christie was par­tic­u­larly af­fected by abuse he got af­ter Ire­land’s 5-1 de­feat to Den­mark in last year’s World Cup play-off. Noth­ing spe­cific that has been fired at Hen­drick has lodged in his mind.

“I couldn’t re­ally quote any­thing,” he said.

“If you stop, read and dwell on it, that is when it can af­fect you without you re­ally even notic­ing. In foot­ball, con­fi­dence is one of the big­gest things you can pos­sess. And without you know­ing you can lose it or get it back.

“So read­ing these sort of com­ments would af­fect your con­fi­dence without you even know­ing.

“It could lead to you go­ing out on the pitch, mak­ing one bad mis­take and go­ing un­der.

“The best thing I would say to play­ers is don’t read the good com­ments or the bad. It’s only the peo­ple around you that you need.”

What an­noys Hen­drick is that the abusive fans tend to be the face­less ones.

He said: “In Eng­land, say with Burn­ley or my last club Derby, when­ever you walk past fans they are al­ways fine and re­spect­ful.

“What­ever ones it is giv­ing the abuse on­line, they’re never there. They do it all through their phones. That’s the way it is.

“If that’s what makes these peo­ple happy then let them be.”

One thing that would make Hen­drick happy would be a re­sult against Wales on Tues­day – gain­ing re­venge for last month’s 4-1 ham­mer­ing.

He said: “I’ve had a few bad nights in my ca­reer, not just in­ter­na­tion­ally but in gen­eral.

“That loss, though, was hard to take, es­pe­cially be­cause it was with Ire­land. Our friends, our fam­i­lies, ev­ery­body gets to hear about it.

“Not much went right for us on the night. In fair­ness to Wales, they were very good. Whether we helped them look that good, I don’t know. They had a game plan and it worked. We’ve got to make sure they don’t have it as easy on Tues­day.”

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