England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has defended his decision to have the likeness of a gun tattooed on his leg, while the FA come out in support of the former Liverpool man.
The 23-year-old’s new body art is highlighted on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of The Sun.
“When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my life time, I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning N still unfinished,” Sterling wrote on Instagram.
On Sunday the former Liverpool player posted a picture of himself training with his England teammates at St George’s Park, with a tattoo of an assault rifle on his right calf clearly visible.
“When you’re training and realised you ain’t post on the gram in couple days,” Sterling wrote on Instagram.
The FA underlined its support for Sterling on Tuesday afternoon, with a spokesperson saying: “We all support Raheem Sterling and acknowledge the honest and heartfelt account he gave via Instagram last night.
“He and the rest of the squad are focused solely on preparing for the forthcoming World Cup.”
Sports broadcaster and former England captain Gary Lineker was critical of the report being published as the national team prepares for their World Cup campaign in Russia.
“Unique to this country to attempt to destroy our players morale before a major tournament,” Lineker said in a series of tweets on Monday evening. “It’s weird, unpatriotic and sad.
“He’s a terrific footballer with a brilliant work ethic. This persecution is disgusting.”
Meanwhile, Eric Dier saw it as “fully deserved” that Harry Kane was named as England’s captain for the World Cup and felt delight for his Tottenham team-mate rather than disappointment at missing out on the role himself.
“No, not really,” Dier said when asked if he was disappointed to have missed out on the role himself. “I wasn’t disappointed. I’m very happy for Harry to be given the opportunity. I think it’s fully deserved.
“And one of the things Gareth said when he spoke to us was that he wants things to continue in the same way, where he has leaders all over the pitch, and hopefully I can continue to do that as well. I think it’s important that the whole team, everyone has to share the responsibility between everyone.
“It would be unfair on Harry or anyone else or the manager himself that they should have to take all the responsibility. Everyone has to take ownership.”
Dier, who has been capped 25 times and scored three goals for England, is one of a number of versatile players in Southgate’s 23-man squad for Russia. He can operate as a midfielder or centre-back, and has emphasised he would have no issue playing in the latter position if called upon.
“If people see me that way [as versatile] I think that’s only a positive really,” Dier said. “I’d be very comfortable doing that and very adequate to do that job. I’ve played there a lot for my club and it’s something I think I can definitely do.”