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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 28 November 2020

'He felt so targeted' - Neville recalls Sterling coming to him in 2016 about 'vicious' treatment

Chelsea has suspended four supporters over alleged abuse towards the Man City star.

Gary Neville discussed a conversation he had with Sterling about treatment from fans and media on Monday night.
Gary Neville discussed a conversation he had with Sterling about treatment from fans and media on Monday night.

GARY NEVILLE SAYS Raheem Sterling came to him to discuss what he believed was “vicious” treatment ahead of the Euro 2016 tournament, saying that the Manchester City star felt “targeted and didn’t know what to do about it.”

Four supporters have been suspended by Chelsea Football Club as investigations into allegations of racial abuse towards Sterling continue.

Sterling was the subject of apparent verbal abuse from a group of Chelsea fans as the 24-year-old approached the touchline during Saturday’s Premier League game, an incident that was caught on camera and quickly went viral on social media. 

Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football Show, the former England assistant coach said that Sterling came to him to discuss the treatment he felt he was receiving from both fans and the media at Euro 2016.

“I had a personal experience with him in 2016, directly with him, and felt as though it would be breaching player-coach confidentiality [to discuss it on TV] so I rang him up and asked him whether I could actually speak about it, because I thought it was important that he didn’t feel like I breached his confidence.

“He came to see me one-on-one I think three or four days before the Iceland game. He was getting absolutely battered going into that tournament [and] getting so much stick.

 ”We were aware of that obviously in the coaching staff. Fans were onto him, the media were onto him asking a lot of questions about him. It then continued into the tournament and into the stadiums. There were groans and little boos. 

“It takes a lot for a player to come and see a coach. He walked in and started to download on me about ‘why was this happening?’

It was accepted that he would be scrutanised as an England player and didn’t want any special treatment, but that it [the remarks about him] was so vicious. He felt so targeted and didn’t know what to do about it.

“I saw someone who has a great mentality and tough, [but] also has a level of vulnerability in terms of how does it deal with this and how does he cope? Really as a coach, I didn’t really know how to deal with it.

“I went into what would be protective mode — one of our most important players and how do you get him ready for the next match?”

He continued that he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the situation at the time and praised Sterling for the resolve he has shown to continue playing.

“You were never really dealing with the underlining issue in that one session but reflecting now, maybe even brushing it aside a little bit.

“There was a tonal difference in the attacks he was getting compared to others. Harry Kane was having a difficult time in that tournament and it was portrayed that it was because he was on corners.

“Raheem was having a difficult time because of other, more personal reasons. And the language used towards him was difficult. I think he was asking me why this was happening.

The abuse he received, particularly in the media beyond that tournament, and the language that was used against him, I haven’t seen it before.

“He was willing to stand up and go out and carry on playing but he’s been carrying this now for years. This is not just yesterday or just a Chelsea fan at the weekend, this has been going on for years with him. 

“It’s a really difficult situation and how would I deal with that again if I was put in that situation. I would have tried to help him.

“He’s a tough lad to come through everything he’s coming through. To perform like he has is a miracle almost.”

Jamie Carragher also appeared on Monday Night Football alongside Neville. He reflected on his time with Sterling at Liverpool and said he was a quiet person who “got on with his training.”

He added that society has taken strides to tackle racism, but stressed that more must be done to achieve real change.

“I think we’ve come a long way since then but obviously not far enough from what happened at the weekend. When you think about actual change, the one thing I thought was that the game was live on TV. 

“It goes everywhere on social media. The one worry I have was that if the game was at 3 o’clock on a Saturday and wasn’t live — the big problem you have in terms of actual change is, is this actually getting accepted by people around the guy who’s saying it?

“You can’t stop one guy shouting a comment. But if he was getting outed in the stadium, and just him because this is going on at stadiums all around the place.

“I think until that happens where people feel uncomfortable in the stadium [around people] shouting abuse or any kind of abuse. That’s when you might finally stamp it out.”  

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne preview a big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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