England boss Gareth Southgate gives his reaction after Declan Rice issues apology over old social media messages
England manager Gareth Southgate has accepted an apology from Declan Rice after the West Ham youngster was caught up in a storm of controversy as old tweets emerged that appeared to show his support for the IRA.
Rice issued a statement on Thursday after the tweets emerged that included references to 'Up the Ra', with his presence in the England training camp ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifiers making his position all the more uncomfortable.
Southgate and his employers at The Football Association have spoken out against England fans chanting anti-IRA songs in recent months, with this incident certain to be a source of embarrassment after Rice's first call-up to the England squad this month.
The West Ham midfielder played three senior internationals for the Republic of Ireland before switching his allegiances to England, with the tweets from 2015 drawing this response from Southgate.
"Hes apologised. It's not representative of what he believes and what he feels," Southgate told a media conference. "Outside of that it was when he was 15 or 16 and engaged in conversation with friends.
"We've probably said things, written things that would look different several years later."
Southgate was then asked how England fans would react to the Rice tweets, as he suggested the FA's stance against anti-IRA chants from supporters remains firms.
"Our messaging doesn't change. Declan's statement is consistent with that," he added. "We are against any of our supporters taking up that stance. I don't think anything changes form an England or FA point of view.
"I think people understand. Most people will have children of those kind of ages. They are still maturing. You can get giddy or say things you don't know much about. Our fans or our public will understand that fact."
Rice was quick to issue a statement on his Instagram account after details of the tweets were republished as he stated: "I am aware that a poorly-expressed comment I made when I was a junior player has been circulated on social media," he wrote, commenting on posts he made when he was 15-year-old.
"I recognise now that my attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time could be negatively interpreted.
"While my naive words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused."
The English FA have confirmed that they will not punish Rice for the messages, but have written to him to warn him of his future conduct.