Stoke forward Saido Berahino accepts he has made mistakes in his career but insists he is not a trouble-maker and is just misunderstood by fans and the wider public.
The former England Under-21 international has had a tumultuous last couple of years. He threatened to go on strike at West Brom when Tottenham’s transfer bid was rejected and then served a eight-week ban earlier this season, reportedly for failing a drugs test.
However, he has never thought about turning his back on football and intends to learn from a difficult 18 months as he tries to get his career back on track at Stoke after a £12million move in January.
“I try to ignore it (the scrutiny) really,” he told 4 The Player Magazine.
“I’ve made my mistakes and I know what the truth is and I know I have to learn from it and try not to get caught up in the opinions that are made about you in the media.
“You have to listen to your managers and your team-mates because they’re the ones that really count the most.
“It’s very hard for me to get who I really am to the outside world because everything I say gets judged and it’s so easy for people to misread what you do.”
Berahino first started to court controversy following four failed bids for him by Spurs in August 2015.
When West Brom rejected their advances Berahino wrote on Twitter he would never play for the club again while Jeremy Peace was still chairman.
The situation was smoothed over – although not with fans – but things were never the same. Berahino’s relationship with manager Tony Pulis was difficult and he was in and out of the side.
This season was no different and initially when Berahino was sidelined from September his absence was attributed to being overweight and depression. It emerged after his transfer to Stoke that he had been suspended, reportedly after testing positive for a recreational drug.
“The only thing that kept me motivated was I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel,” he said in describing his playing absence.
“Everything has an ending so I just kept working hard at my game and kept myself motivated by having peace in myself to allow myself to wake up every day and go into training without getting angry or downhearted.
“Just be a man really, roll up my sleeves and take every day as a challenge.
“I’m doing what I love and even though I’ve had tough times I never thought ‘I don’t want to do this any more’.”
On his strike threat at West Brom he added: “The first (transfer) window was the hardest one.
“I hardly had any contact with the club so I didn’t know what was going on with my own career, which was a bit scary and that was why I reacted how I did.”
Since moving to Stoke he has made five appearances, making his first start in last week’s goalless draw at Manchester City.
He hopes under Mark Hughes he can move on to bigger and better things.
“I’m seeing this as a great opportunity not just a fresh start,” he said.
“It’s something to kick my career back up, a platform for me to go and enjoy myself again and just play – stress-free and with happiness.”
:: Berahino was talking to the PFA’s 4 The Player Magazine which is available to download on the 20th March at www.thepfa.com.