JEFF HENDRICK has blasted his old club Derby for sacking skipper Richard Keogh.
The Burnley and Republic of Ireland midfielder slammed the Rams for “kicking the captain while he is down”.
Keogh was axed by the Championship club for gross misconduct despite being hurt in a car crash after a team-bonding drink-up that went disastrously wrong – and left him with a serious season-ending injury.
He was blamed for the incident as two Derby players, Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett, went drink-driving, despite the fact the club had laid on transport for the players.
A Derby FC investigation found Keogh at fault and at first threatened to sack him if he did not take a pay cut.
Rams chiefs then sacked him even though he was not at the wheel of either of the two cars, and was found unconscious.
Hendrick, who played alongside Keogh at Derby and for Ireland, leapt to his friend’s defence on Twitter.
He posted: “Talk about kicking a man (the captain) while he is down instead of helping him trough this physically and mentally tough time.”
Fulham’s Harry Arter, another Ireland team-mate, wrote: “So the one left unconscious in the car and not arrested gets sacked”
Keogh, 33, suffered a serious knee ligament injury in the crash on September 24.
He will be out for a year.
Rams released this statement: “Derby County Football Club has completed the disciplinary hearing regarding Richard Keogh in respect of his involvement in the events of Tuesday, September 24th.
“As a result of that process, Mr Keogh has had his contract terminated with immediate effect for gross misconduct. He has the right of appeal within 14 days.
“As we have said from the outset, the club will not tolerate any of its players or staff behaving in a manner which puts themselves, their colleagues, and members of the general public at risk of injury or worse, or which brings the club into disrepute.”
Fans had mixed opinions on whether Keogh should have been sacked.
Scott Hammond said on Twitter: “Keogh wasn’t just sacked, he was offered a reduced deal first which included all the medical treatment he needed.
“Oh and he’s an adult, he wasn’t forced to get in the back of a car and decide against wearing a seatbelt.”
Stephen Barry wrote: “Tom Lawrence & Mason Bennett, guilty of drink driving, continue to play for them”
London Trickies posted: “Inside four months Keogh has gone from starting the season as captain – to being stabbed in the neck by our groundsman – to having his career ended by a drink driving teammate – to being sacked for gross misconduct.
“Truly a remarkable season, even by his standards.”
While Ryan Goodo said: “Don’t like Keogh… however … how ironic that he’s the only one sacked for gross misconduct for being a passenger in a car that was being drunk driven.. by another player that’s not been sacked because he didn’t get injured”