Joey Barton has had his say on the Raheem Sterling controversy ahead of the World Cup

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Raheem Sterling's treatment in the media has been abhorrent at times, but the one positive that can be taken is the backlash against it.

The forward already has a Premier League winners' medal in his collection and not many of us had achieved that by the age of 23.

Indeed, Gareth Southgate will just be hoping he can replicate his exploits for Manchester City, which saw him score 23 goals and provide 11 assists in all competitions this season, for the national side.

England fans have been rallying around Sterling following the faux-uproar surrounding his leg tattoo and his subsequent turning up late for training, especially as he has already apologised for the latter.

Among his most high-profile advocates is Gary Lineker, who tweeted:

“Unique to this country to attempt to destroy our players morale before a major tournament...He’s a terrific footballer with a brilliant work ethic. This persecution is disgusting.”

Very well said. It's a strange phenomenon, though one that England players must be used to, whereby they come in for huge criticism ahead of any major tournament.

Harry Kane was even mocked by the FA and the PFA chairman, though never with the same level of vitriol as Sterling has had to contend with.

Barton has a message for England fans 

And people wonder why continuously come up short. New Fleetwood boss Joey Barton has raised exactly that point on talkSPORT, discussing what he has made of the Sterling saga.

“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.

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“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.”

It's likely that Sterling will play a key role either behind Kane, as a forward himself, or as part of a three-man attack.

The last thing the former Liverpool man needs is to have his confidence dented, with the World Cup now just nine days away.

One thing he can count on, at least, is that the England fans who travel to Russia will have his back.

How important is Sterling going to be for England? Have your say in the comments. 

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