| 20.8°C Dublin

Campbell: Young Reds star doesn't deserve 'tired' criticism

Former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell has told Raheem Sterling's critics to back off as the young winger is under enough pressure.

The Liverpool star did not start for England in their timid 1-0 win over Estonia last Sunday and has since been widely criticised.

Campbell, who played 73 times for his country, said: "When I was 19 I wasn't playing for my national side. And regardless of energy, the mental energy it takes out of you, the concentrations levels you have for 90 minutes.

"Whatever country you are playing against, they are the best in that country. And the pressure that surrounds that game is incredibly intense so it takes a lot out of you. Nineteen-years-old, back in the day, he wouldn't have been seeing the first team with England.

"I didn't see the first team until I was 20/21 and I was in and out. Nineteen is incredibly young and there is a lot of pressure, that's what people have to realise.

"Very few of them guys, bar Rooney, got into the side when they were 19. How many 19-year-olds have played regularly for England in the first team?"

Forefront

Campbell, who has been at the forefront of the Kick Racism out of Football campaign in England, was in Dublin as an ambassador for the One Young World summit in Dublin. And he claims that the midweek carnage that descended on Serbia's match with Albania in Belgrade goes deeper than racism.

"It goes deeper than that. That's almost war and it shows just how close football is, how it's all connected with that type of extreme behaviour. A drone going through, it's almost like a warzone," added Campbell.

"It's incredible really when you think about it and it just explodes after that. You have to realise that the prickly situation is still there and can explode any minute so we have to make sure we look after the people who play football because it is a game. But you have to realise that there are passions behind it and those passions are kind of warlike, like religion."

But Campbell believes that, in England, huge progress has been made in recent times to combat racism.

"I think with footballers it has changed. It's different from the 60s and 70s. That has changed. There are some really good organisations with people working tirelessly to make people aware and for people to know we don't want this type of mentality in and around stadiums.

"But you have to make sure you continue to keep working hard because the minute you take your foot off the pedal, it comes back in."

Irish Independent