Sunday 21 October 2018

Tattoo storm last thing Sterling thinking about

Raheem Sterling believes England must adopt a bold approach in Russia. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Raheem Sterling believes England must adopt a bold approach in Russia. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Jason Burt

Raheem Sterling has insisted that the storm over his gun tattoo has not affected him because he has been "through harder stuff in my life".

That was a reference to the loss of his father, who was shot dead in Jamaica when Sterling was just two years old and the hardships the England forward went through growing up.

"People expect me to be really affected by it," Sterling said over the scrutiny he faced after The Sun newspaper made the tattoo, on his right leg, a front-page story with criticism from anti-gun campaigners.

"I just find I've been through harder stuff in my life to get down by that, so that's is the least of my worries," Sterling said.

The 23-year-old conceded that he understood to a degree why the unfinished tattoo, actually inked in tribute to his dead father, drew attention but was surprised at the timing.

"I can see, most definitely, where they're coming from. You can see a gun on someone's leg, you are going to automatically think 'what the hell are you doing?'," Sterling said.

"And from my point, I've had that since August/September. I know there's been pictures of it before, so it's just a case of why at this moment in time does it get reported about?

Agenda

"I don't feel there's an agenda. It's just one of those things. It's World Cup time and news is news. It's put up. I don't think it's against me. I'm just focusing on my training sessions and doing well.

"The boys have seen I haven't been affected by it or my mood. They know I'm fine. If they did see something wrong, they would be the first to come to me."

"From the minute Gareth Southgate came in, he said the only thing we could control was what happened in our circle and on the training ground. In the past, I think we've paid a bit too much attention to the outside."

England take the second youngest squad to the World Cup finals and Sterling, one of the few survivors from 2014, believes that they needed to be "more arrogant" on the pitch.

"I'd say probably just controlling games and being a bit more arrogant with the ball," he said.

"I'm sorry to say it, but being more arrogant and more streetwise because we are coming up against some great teams and other countries have that streetwise mentality.

"They bring their play into it - you do what you have to do to win a game. Simple as that. Be streetwise and clever.

"You watch the Champions League final and Liverpool go 3-1 down and the way Real Madrid control the game.

"They have that winning mentality in big games. Not doing anything silly. Not attacking all the time. They see the game out and, once we get that, I think we'll be a really good team."

Sterling believes that England must show real ambition in Russia. "That's the one thing I don't like hearing - when someone says 'we'll see what happens, see what happens here, see what happens there'. Forget all of that sort of talk."

The Manchester City player added: "I'm not coming here to spend four, five, six weeks of my life to say 'let's see what happens and hopefully we'll make the last 16'.

"We've got 23 players here, 23 good players, very good players, and we all have the mentality to say that we're going to win the games."

So having failed to even progress out of their group in Brazil four years ago, would a quarter-final place - as has been mooted - be acceptable?

"No, it won't be good enough, at all, because you want to win it," Sterling added. "I feel we've got a good chance and need to be focused from that first minute."

Childhood

Sterling has taken the No 10 shirt in the squad. "It's from my days at QPR, I know I shouldn't mention it, but I've got a tattoo of it (No 10) on my arm," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do from my childhood - wear the No 10 for England."

Meanwhile, Jack Butland and Danny Rose are in line to get a final opportunity to stake their claims for a place in England's starting line-up in Russia.

Butland and Rose are both poised to start tomorrow's friendly against Costa Rica as Southgate concludes his preparations for the finals.

Everton's Jordan Pickford is emerging as the favourite to start England's first group game against Tunisia, but Stoke goalkeeper Butland will be handed a late chance to impress at Elland Road.

Pickford played the full 90 minutes of England's 2-1 win over Nigeria last Saturday and was given the No 1 jersey for the World Cup, in a clear sign that he has edged ahead of Butland.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Rose has fallen behind Ashley Young in the pecking order at left-back.

Liverpool pair Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are both expected to play a part against Costa Rica after being given time off to rest after the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid.

Henderson said: "It was very tough, night, a difficult moment but when you reflect, but we have to look at the positives and how well we did in the Champions League campaign.

Telegraph.co.uk

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