Slaven Bilic has leapt to the defence of Liverpool’s under-fire defender Dejan Lovren.
Lovren’s performances have come under fierce scrutiny of late, not least following the horror show which saw him substituted after just 31 minutes against Tottenham a fortnight ago.
The former Southampton centre-half has also been the subject of online death threats made to his family.
Lovren is a player Bilic knows well, having handed him his international debut in 2009 when he was Croatia boss.
And the West Ham manager, whose side host Liverpool on Saturday evening, says the internet trolls should be “ashamed of themselves”.
“Fortunately that is a minority of people,” said Bilic.
“Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m naive but I think even those people who did it didn’t mean it seriously.
“They weren’t joking – it’s a bad, bad way of expressing that they’re not happy with the way he played.
“But that shouldn’t be there. Those people should be ashamed of themselves, big time.”
Lovren was clearly at fault for Tottenham’s first two goals in Liverpool’s chastening 4-1 defeat at Wembley.
The 28-year-old has since missed victories over Huddersfield and – in the Champions League – Maribor through injury.
But Bilic insists Lovren has been singled out for criticism unfairly and has no doubts that, if he plays on Saturday, West Ham will still be facing a quality defender.
“I’m very, very disappointed with the treatment he has received,” added Bilic.
“He’s a very good player. He’s more than a centre-back. He never hides on the pitch. He’s always there.
“A lot of mistakes, sometimes he’s making up for somebody else’s mistakes. It’s not easy to play centre-back at Liverpool because of where they stand.
“Take Real Madrid against Spurs, and they have probably the best centre-back in the world in Sergio Ramos.
“But when he’s exposed on such a big space against Dele Alli and Harry Kane, he doesn’t look good. It’s very hard to play centre-back.
“Lovren’s a really good lad, an honest lad. He never asks for any excuses.
“I hope it isn’t going to be on Saturday but sooner or later he’s going to score a goal like he scored against Borussia Dortmund and he’s going to be a hero again.
“That’s the nature of society. The people want it straight away, that want it now and they want it tomorrow. But I think Lovren is very strong in his head.”