'He was getting absolutely battered!' – Neville defends Sterling after alleged racist abuse

The former Man Utd right-back was a coach with England during Roy Hodgson’s stint as manager, and says he saw Ashley Cole suffer similar abuse

Raheem Sterling sought advice from Gary Neville when he was targeted by media and fans at the 2016 European Championships, the former right-back has revealed. 

The Manchester City winger was allegedly the subject of racist abuse during the champions’ 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and has since suggested that black players are targeted by the media because of the colour of their skin. 

Sterling’s personal life has often received scrutiny from newspapers, including criticism from media outlets regarding a tattoo of a gun on the player’s leg ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Neville, who worked with the City star during his time as England coach, said on Sky Sports: “He came to see me one on one in 2016, I think it was three or four days before the Iceland game.

“Pre-tournament – I don’t know if you remember – but he was getting absolutely battered going into that tournament. He was getting so much stick.

“We were aware of that obviously, within the coaching staff, that fans were onto him, the media were onto him and asking a lot of questions about him. It then continued into the tournament, into the stadiums, to the point whereby there were those groans and little boos and little things.

“And it takes a lot for a player to come and see a coach. He actually came when I was in the analysis room, and I remember the analyst leaving and he walked in and, to be fair, just started to download on me – why was this happening, why was this so personal?

“He accepted that he would get criticism playing for England, for his performance levels. He didn’t want any special treatment. But he felt so targetted he didn’t know what to do about it.

“I saw what I felt was somebody who has a great mentality and is tough, but also a level of vulnerability in terms of how does he deal with this, how does he cope with it, how does he come out of it.”

Neville played as a full-back for Manchester United and England, winning 85 caps as part of a so-called ‘golden generation’.

The former right-back went onto single out Ashley Cole as a player who received similar abuse during his own career.

“He [Cole] had to escape this country,” Neville added. “He’s almost like a football refugee. He’s seeking asylum in the MLS to get away from it, the way he’s been treated.

“When it’s good for Ashley Cole and Raheem Sterling they’re never hero worshiped. They don’t get the appreciation.”

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