Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - League A - Group 4 - Spain v England - Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville, Spain - October 15, 2018 England's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring their third goal Action Images via Reuters-Carl Recine

England manager Gareth Southgate has praised Raheem Sterling for speaking out at changing the narrative around him in the media.

Sterling accused newspapers of “fuelling racism” with their portrayal of young black footballers back in December after he was the victim of alleged racist abuse in Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

And former England defender Rio Ferdinand recently suggested Sterling may not win Player of the Year awards because of racial prejudice.

Asked whether he agrees with Ferdinand’s comments, Southgate replied: “No, because I would imagine that the other main candidate would be Virgil van Dijk and last year Mo Salah won.

“So I don’t think that it would be as simple a situation as that really. I don’t think anybody will be looking at the candidates this year on anything other than the way they’ve played the game.

“I think that it’s been really pleasing that the narrative has changed around him and all credit for that goes to him.

“If you went back to post-World Cup and how he must have felt about some of the reaction to his performances.

“For us, he was always one of the first names on the team sheet and his contribution to the team was so important.

“The obvious thing was that he hadn’t scored the goals that he would have wanted. He’s managed to go back to Manchester City and everything on the pitch has brought the right level of attention.”

World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba recently told Sky Sports News he feels Sterling is still not getting the recognition he deserves for his consistently high-performance levels.

Southgate, who is set to start Sterling against the Czech Republic on Friday, says the 24-year-old has made a significant impact in changing attitudes beyond football.

“Clearly, what he’s spoken about so maturely off the field has had an impact not just on football but beyond that.

“I think it’s raised everybody’s awareness about how we might report on things or comment on things.

“I think he has, over the last couple of months in particular, received that credit and respect that his performances have deserved.”

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