Kruse shrugs off keyboard warriors to go again
EVEN after 67 caps, in some ways it's a surprise to see Robbie Kruse arrive in Kuwait with his Socceroos teammates for the start of the Graham Arnold era.
By the end of the World Cup campaign in June, Kruse was looking and sounding battered, physically and mentally - abused in deplorable fashion by keyboard warriors on social media, and tired after almost a decade of national team service.
There were thoughts he might call it quits, and let the new wave of talent have a go. In some ways, it would have been the easy route to take, because playing for his country has seemingly often come at a cost.
Kruse has always endured more than his fair share of vitriol from supporters, many not seeing the off-the-ball work that has made him valued by a succession of coaches.
At 30 his best days might be behind him, but for now Kruse is determined to make sure that not all his days are behind him.
"With the Asian Cup being close [his future] was always in the back of my mind," Kruse said.
"I've been around a long time, I've had a lot of injuries and it's really tough when you take in the travel aspect of playing international football.
"I've done it the last nine years, it's really detrimental with your club. You always fall out of favour when you travel with your national team, especially for us because we travel all around the world.
"I've experienced that at Leverkusen. As soon as you get yourself into the team you find yourself back out again.
"But I've spoken with Arnie and (assistant coach) Rene Meulensteen, they're really positive coaches and they really entice me to keep going and I'm really happy I've stuck to it."
Kruse will start for the Socceroos against Kuwait early Tuesday (AEST), knowing that anytime he puts a foot wrong it will be widely condemned on social media.
Even those who might question his finishing and decision-making in attack at times cringe at the way he is made into a hate figure, never more so than at the World Cup in Russia four months ago.
"To be honest I don't really read too much into it," Kruse said "Obviously I heard of it through some of the boys. You go through ups and downs through your career.
"When I was at Leverkusen I copped it a bit because I was coming back from injury and you're not quite at the top of your game again. It goes through waves.
"Social media gives really unimportant people (the chance) to voice their opinions. It's really not important for me, I listen to the people who I need to; my family, my coaches and most importantly my teammates.
"If they're disappointed in me then I'd be more affected but they're really happy with the way I do things. I do a lot of stuff that some people don't notice on the football pitch. My teammates really value that in my game.
"Obviously it's not nice but I've learned to deal with it, I'm not a kid anymore. It comes with the nature of playing football."