Stephen O'Donnell: Scotland defender lifts lid on criticism and praise during Euro 2020 and reveals Motherwell phonecall
Scotland defender Stephen O’Donnell had to phone his Motherwell manager Graham Alexander to seek reassurances about his performance for Scotland against Czech Republic following criticism he received after the 2-0 defeat.
O’Donnell started all three of Scotland’s Euro 2020 matches and was singled out by boo-boys for his display against the Czechs, only to have the tables turned in the wake of the 0-0 draw against England, where some – including Scotland boss Steve Clarke – reckoned he was man-of-the-match.
The 29-year-old right-back admitted that found some of the flak “a wee bit over the top” and said that he is, by nature, someone who dwells on the negatives rather than positives. He took advice from his club manager, who also played right-back for Scotland.
“I tried to stay somewhere in the middle,” O’Donnell said when asked about the criticism on BBC Sportsound.
“It was frustrating at times because you think the criticism’s a wee bit over the top – but at the same side I thought the praise was maybe a wee bit over the top as well.
“There were things in the England game I could’ve done better and you’d have thought I’d never put a foot wrong in my career from some of the praise afterwards.
“I maybe wasn’t aware of a lot that had gone on, because every text I got after the England game was from people saying ‘what had been being said was over the top,’ so god knows how bad it was.
“I was staying in my bubble and trying not to go on social media too much but the impression I got after the first game was that I’d been horrendous.
“I phoned my manager at Motherwell and I’d a wee chat with him. I just wanted to speak to him so I could make sure I wasn’t in denial.
“The type of person I am, I will always look at the negatives.”
O’Donnell accepts that a higher level of scrutiny comes when at an international tournament, with Scotland failing to progress beyond the group stages after defeats by Croatia and Czech Republic and a draw against England.
“The things that were said is a reflection that everybody in Scotland was interested and they’d have loved to have been doing it,” O’Donnell continued.
“Of course, you’d much rather be having praise than criticism but that’s part of being a footballer.
“But the first Czech goal was the one I was baffled at, because surely people could see what I was doing.
“I felt it was a bit harsh, because if the ball gets slipped to him I’d get lambasted for that, so it’s a tricky one.
“In the first game I felt I played it wrong. A lot of the joy I’d got was competing with their left back in the air and getting on second balls.
“I should have realised it was a game to be a bit deeper, which would’ve been more natural for myself.
“But at the time I wanted to get after the full-back and try to create – but I didn’t really create anything.
“On the ball I let myself down and that was the disappointment. I was solid enough defensively, I did my job, but I expect better and maybe it was a wee bit much.”