Three of Richard Keogh's former team-mates have expressed their sympathies after the Republic of Ireland international was sacked by Derby County.
Ireland international and former Derby player Jeff Hendrick took to Twitter to accuse the club of 'kicking a man while he is down', with Harry Arter also questioning the decision, while Keith Treacy believes Keogh will take legal action following his sacking.
Keogh (33) suffered a serious knee injury after he was involved in a car crash with Wales international Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett on 24 September.
Lawrence and Bennett, who later admitted to drink-driving charges, were both fined the equivalent of six weeks' wages by Derby - the maximum contractual limit - but not dismissed.
Keogh's contract termination was announced on Wednesday night, with the club stating they "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".
Speaking to RTÉ this morning, solicitor to the players union in Ireland, Stuart Gilhooley said that treating former Ireland captain Keogh differently to Lawrence and Bennett is grossly hypocritical. He says the PFA is not impressed and that they are supportive of Keogh and take the view that he should not be sacked.
Keogh is likely to lose up to £2 million on a contract worth a reported £24,000 per week, which was due to run until June 2020.
"Talk about kicking a man (the captain) while he is down instead of helping him through this physically and mentally tough time," tweeted Hendrick, who made 214 appearances for the Rams before joining Burnley in 2016.
Fellow Ireland international Harry Arter queried the decision to sack "the one left unconscious in the car and not arrested".
Agree. Talk about kicking a man(the captain) while he is down instead of helping him trough this physically and mentally tough time https://t.co/R9V7CKmT9L— Jeff Hendrick (@JeffHendrick92) October 30, 2019
Speaking on RTE Radio 1's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Treacy, who played for the Ireland Under-21s with Keogh, said the defender was being "extremely harshly treated".
"When you look at all the details you can feel a bit sorry for Richard. The other two boys seemingly getting off so lightly, especially when he wasn't driving the car. He doesn't have a license.
"Would seem he is being extremely harshly treated. We can see through the statements and what they are actually saying is Richard is of no value to them now because he is 33 and that is why they are letting him go," said Treacy, who had his own discipline issues in the latter stages of his career.
"Don't get me wrong he has done things wrong and should be punished but the other two lads, they're the main two, they were the ones who were drink driving."
Treacy believes Keogh may take legal action and that may be damaging for squad morale, with players siding with either Keogh or Lawrence and Bennett.
"I'd say he was forced out the door and I can't see Richie taking this lying down," said Treacy. "Obviously he has a couple of friends within the dressing room and they'll be on his side, and Lawrence and Bennett will have their little mates, so there will be a bit of a divide.
"[Derby manager] Phillip Cocu is going to have to try and sort this out sharpish. If this does go through the courts, I can see that transmitting itself onto the pitch."
Keogh's wife Charlie updated her Instagram profile to describe herself as "wife to a professional scapegoat".