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Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Alan Hansen's column

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Emmanuel Eboue felt the full fury of the Emirates when Arsenal beat Wigan on Saturday - suffering personal abuse on such a level that he became the substitute who had to be substituted.

Emmanuel Eboue
Eboue will almost have to undergo a course of rehabiliation

Alan Hansen

Manager Arsene Wenger will have thought long and hard before making the decision to spare the defender the further wrath of Arsenal's fans but it was a brave decision and a correct one.

If Arsenal had been three up I suspect he would have left Eboue on but Wenger admitted he had become "a danger" as his side protected a slender 1-0 lead.

I have always been from the school that says fans pay their money and are entitled to their opinion but I can tell any supporters who jeer their own players that there is nothing more counter-productive.

There has never been a player in the history of the game who has performed better with the boos of their own fans ringing in their ears and by all accounts Eboue was inconsolable in the dressing room after the game.

I can fall back on personal experience to tell you there is no worse feeling for any professional footballer than to have your own supporters on your back. If opposition fans get stuck into you that is good - it is done out of respect in most cases.

I know for a fact, however, there is nothing worse in a player's life than to hear that audible groan as the ball is coming towards you. You can cut the tension with a knife and rest assured it does not help your performance or confidence.

I suffered it with Scotland way back during a period when there was a groundswell of anti-Anglo feeling aimed at the players who plied their trade down south - and I got it in the warm-up.

It was, if I recall correctly, a home game against Switzerland at Hampden Park. I used to warm up with Graeme Souness because then the fans would give it to him and leave me alone and nothing ever bothered Souness.

This day I did not have the shield of Souness, I could hear the shouts from a section of the terraces and once one or two start, more join in. It seems like you can hear every word.

I then made a semi-mistake 30 seconds into the game and that was it. After that you could just feel the tension as the ball was coming towards you. It made you tense and the crowd were tense.

My style was to get on the ball and play, maybe not the most ideal in those circumstances. My reaction was just to try to shrug it off and try to play through it - but let me tell you it did not make me play better.


Eboue will have felt all of those emotions and more on Saturday and maybe Wenger's decision to take him off might have made some Arsenal fans actually think they went too far in their treatment of one of their own players.

The player will now almost have to go through a period of rehabilitation and a rebuilding of his confidence. Wenger may well reintroduce him to the fray away from the Emirates. He is a superb manager and will know how best to restore Eboue to full working order.

I do not know the history of this booing but I would imagine the fans feel Eboue had been having a bad time before his injuries.

And the brutal fact of football life is that fans have their favourites and nothing will ever change that.

Let's take an example of a player doing five good things, five average things and five bad things in a game - if a player is popular the fans will remember the five good things and if he is not so popular they will remember the five bad things.

Eboue is not a bad player and there is every likelihood some fans will applaud him now because of his current plight. It is hard to turn fans around but crowds respond if you work hard and I am sure he will.

He will certainly need his confidence lifting. Getting abuse from your own fans puts you under unbelievable pressure and I do not remember anyone who has been placed in that position and has improved as a player.

Hard work lies ahead for Eboue but he will have a manager in Wenger who will help him and he will get plenty of sympathy and support from his team-mates.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

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see also
Arsenal 1-0 Wigan
06 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Wenger says Eboue will bounce back
07 Dec 08 |  African
Garth Crooks' team of the week
16 Jan 11 |  Final Score

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