Sterling has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks
Joey Barton has urged England fans to get behind Raheem Sterling if they want to even consider doing well at the World Cup in Russia.
The 23-year-old has come under intense scrutiny from certain sections of the media after pictures of an assault rifle tattooed on his leg started to circulate.
And new Fleetwood Town head coach Barton is no stranger to controversy himself, having spent most of his career in the public domain.
But, at 35 years-old and with far more experience behind him, the former talkSPORT presenter has empathised with Sterling and wants fans to support, not stigmatise the Manchester City star.
Speaking to Darren Gough and Adrian Durham on Drivetime, he said: “He’s a young lad who’s probably had his best season and we’ve got to bear in mind that he came out of the last European Championships and the Iceland game and he got a lot of stick.
“Since he’s been working with [Pep] Guardiola at Manchester City, I think he’s improved no end.
“And look, if England are going to do well at the tournament, players need all the support they can get.
Gareth Southgate leaps to Raheem Sterling’s defence, listen here
“He’s a young boy and he’s living in the public spotlight and he’s going to make mistakes as we all do.
“I think the challenge is not to be too hard on him, I think let’s support him in making better decisions so that he goes into that tournament with loads of confidence – brimming with it.
“If England are going to do well, we need Raheem Sterling to do well.”
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