Raheem Sterling

Gareth Southgate has welcomed Raheem Sterling becoming a star player for England.

Raheem Sterling celebrates

The tactician  went ahead to hail the forward’s increasing influence on and off the pitch.

Sterling initially struggled to turn his club form for Manchester City into high-level performances for the Three Lions, regularly facing strong criticism over his performances.

“For me, it’s lovely to see the shift in the public opinion of him,” Southgate said of the 24-year-old.

“That’s still a brave thing to decide that: ‘Right, I’m going to own that space and I’m going to put my own views across’. But those views represent many as well, so I think he’s aware of the power of his voice, but he also doesn’t waste it.

“I think he was very forthright in his social media posts [about racism]. I think he raised everybody’s awareness and made us all think, which was very mature and impressive. And, at the same time, he rose to the challenge with his club, with new signings coming in.

“You know, when you are at a club like that, to keep fighting off the quality of players that he has; and straight away with us, got the goals in Spain – first game after the World Cup for him, really. Croatia away, Spain. I think it was such a huge weight lifted for him, he almost jumped six foot in the stadium, didn’t he?

“So I think from that moment – because he did come home a bit sad after the World Cup, there’s no hiding from that. He didn’t deserve to feel that way, but that’s as he was, so it’s lovely to see the recognition he’s getting and how much extra I think that’s bringing out of him.

“If there are things that he thinks can be better with the mentality of the players or the way that we’ve set the week out, he’ll thoughtfully put ideas across; he doesn’t just sit and complain.

“But then you see his interaction with the players. I noticed, over the last 24 hours especially [prior to facing Kosovo], he spent a lot of time with Jadon, I think that was probably quite a comfort.

“He can pass things on that I can speak [about] as the coach, but there’ll be more depth to that if your fellow winger who has been at the same club as you, and has been through what you’re going to go through can talk to you. I think that’s far more powerful. You can’t quantify what that will have meant for Jadon.”