Raheem Sterling: England team-mate Kyle Walker DEFENDS Man City gem | Football | Sport


It has been an interesting build-up to the tournament for Sterling, who could now be the one England will rely on for that spark of inspiration to set their tournament alight if Rashford is not able to get fit enough to start against Tunisia on Monday.

And yet the Sterling that most people have read about is a very different individual to the ones who know him best – including Manchester City team-mate Walker, who endorses Sterling as the man to whom he entrusts his innermost secrets.

“At City, on and off the field, if I’ve got a problem at home or a problem with football then I’m the first one to go to him and speak about it,” Walker revealed. “He’s got a heart of gold. He’s my team-mate but first and foremost he’s my friend and I’d defend him till the end of the earth.

“I know Raheem and deep down he’s a gentleman, a lovely, lovely guy. He might not always be portrayed like that, but he’s helped me massively.

“Should he have had to have come out and explain himself? I don’t believe so. It’s his body, it’s up to him what he does with his body. If I wanted to do something to my body then I wouldn’t care what anyone else has to say.

“It’s a bit sad that he had to come and tell people that his dad died from a gun. It’s personal to him.

“A little bit, he gets picked on. It’s just Raheem. He probably won’t change for anyone, that’s just him and I wouldn’t want him to change for anyone because he’s a lovely person.”

It is clear Walker suspects the furore over the gun tattoo – after Sterling had already apologised to the rest of the squad for reporting late for duty – is just part of the mayhem that surrounds the build-up to any major tournament.

The important thing, in Walker’s mind, is making sure that energy works for the team rather than against it.

“The whole country goes mad,” he said. “We need to live up to that. We’ve got the country on our back but we also need the country behind us, with the support, the positive energy, the fans and you guys need to give to us is only going to spur us on.

“People say, ‘We owe the fans a good tournament’, but first and foremost we owe it to ourselves because the last tournament wasn’t good enough and we all know that.

“We are definitely stronger mentally now and the whole team is stronger and that’s on and off the field. I mean I’m sure everyone’s banging on about it but the togetherness amongst us all is like a club team.”

In , Walker feels, England might just have the weapon to help them having faced him both as a Tottenham player and this season training alongside each other on the training pitch.

“He’s unbelievable,” Walker says simply. “He could be one of the best in the world by far. He scares defenders, he scares me when he’s running at me.

“I just have to put my body in the way and hope he has to run round me!”

It is the pace that causes the biggest slice of the problem – although Walker halts his eulogy to his colleague just long enough to stop anybody getting too carried away with Sterling’s attributes.

Who’s quickest? Walker ponders for no more than a split-second. “Over 100 metres, yeah me. Over 50m? I think it would be difficult for me.”

Although these days, thanks to that change of position under Southgate where the England boss wants him to play a more central role, increasingly he has to do the first few yards of running in his head.

“Is it my preferred position? Of course not,” Walker admits. “I want to play right-back. I have worked my whole life to get to where I am now in a World Cup squad, and to showcase my talent in the World Cup stage, playing in my position.

“But I’m a team player. I will do anything for the team. If that means the Gaffer thinks to help the team out it is me playing there I am all for it.”

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