AS SOMEONE who cut his footballing teeth in the ferociously competitive local junior scene back on his native Merseyside, coping with criticism has always gone with the territory for Tom Eaves.
Back in the day, it came from his father who provided the ‘tough love’ necessary to help the future Hull City striker gain an edge on his rivals – of which there were many – in the pursuit of his footballing dreams.
Eaves’s dad can still dish it out when necessary, just as he did when his lad was firing in the goals for Barlows Junior Football Club, based in the north Liverpool suburb of Fazakerley.
But these days, the criticism; some of it fair, some of it rather more unjustified, chiefly arrives from the ‘cyber warriors’ who have shown a predilection to have an opinion on everything in those social-media driven times that now seem to govern society.
Thankfully, the broad shoulders that Eaves utilizes on the pitch to outmuscle defenders have also proven useful in handling stick for an individual who is not afraid to put his head on the parapet by regularly engaging on Twitter.
But sometimes, it can hurt. You would not be human if it did not.
If you have not had a good game, face it – do not dwell on it.Tom Eaves
Eaves’s failure to find the net at the start of his Hull career until October, drew some censure from an element of fans after netting 40 in two seasons at Gillingham.
But he said: “It can be (nasty) as you can get a 12-year-old kid coming on and slating you and then someone who may be a 60-year-old guy who knows football.
“Everyone has got opinions and it is important to have your own opinion of yourself and have that self-belief.
“I have also got my dad on the phone as well and he will call me and give me some of the truth and I respect my dad’s opinion up there with my own. He will always give me an honest verdict for the game and I value his opinion.
“He can be pretty harsh sometimes. He was my old manager in the local league growing up.
“He was always very honest with me and that is important to have a good connection with the truth.
“If you have not had a good game, face it – do not dwell on it.
“It is important to keep myself on a level ground because it is different nowadays.
“People back in the day did not have to deal with social media. You are tethered to people in a lot of ways and it is difficult to switch off as well.
“It is great when you get the positive feedback and it can lift you and you think: ‘You know what...’ It can be very uplifting and to be honest, the Hull fans have been brilliant with me; absolutely fantastic.
“There is that feeling they really want you to do well and push you and that is great.
“It is important to stay in the middle as you cannot get too high or too low.
“You need to stay as close to the truth as possible.”
Handed his big chance to make a name for himself in the Championship and approaching his peak at the age of 27, Eaves is positively relentless in his daily pursuit to strive to improve in all aspects.
When you have done the hard yards in the lower-leagues at places such as Gillingham and Yeovil, it should surprise few that the Merseysider is someone who will never take his situation for granted. His father would not let him, either. Perish the thought.
With that drive comes a refreshing candour in his assessment of his own performances and what he is doing well and what he could do better as he strives to grasp his opportunity.
It can, as he admits, sometimes lead to him overthinking certain situations which he could have done differently on a match-day and being harsh on himself – such is his fervent desire to do the best he can.
Although on the evidence of this season, Eaves and those who watch his progress should be fairly satisfied at his acclimatisation in the second tier.
“I am enjoying it,” said Eaves, who is likely to lead the line against Stoke today in the absence of Josh Magennis, who is set to return for the Christmas period. “(But) I am a bit of an over-thinker and do commit my life to it. I won’t make any bones about it.
“I do get frustrated when I don’t get chances and then get a half-chance and think: ‘well, what could I have done differently?’ Could I have dinked it, gone around him or whacked it?
“But I will be doing my absolute best to put myself in the best positions to always try and score as many goals for this club as I can.”
With the attitude that Eaves possesses, few should doubt his willingness in that regard and his honest-to-goodness desire to succeed, which is more than just artificial words.
He has been schooled well by his ‘old man.’