Picture: Michael Zemanek/BPI/REX/Shutterstock.

It’s the same every couple of years.

Our tabloid press seem intent on rocking the England boat prior to a major tournament. At least this time they haven’t built the Three Lions up before doing so. 

But it seems to me as though some of our country’s biggest newspapers are desperate to put a spanner in the works of any attempts to win either a European Championship or World Cup.

It’s Raheem Sterling this time who is under the spotlight – not for the first time either. The Manchester City forward was on the front pages after he had a tattoo of a gun put on the side of his leg. The issue dragged on for a couple of days with articles about how people had called for the 23-year-old to have it removed or for him to even be banned from playing in Russia this summer.

Presumably these people had forgotten that Sterling will be wearing socks during the tournament so nobody will actually see the ‘offending’ item in the first place.

Regardless, does a person – because that’s what he is – having a tattoo really warrant front-page news given what else is going on in the world on a daily basis? 

Is anybody going to see it and be inspired to use a gun? I’m sure there’s plenty of films and rap videos and songs that would be more culpable if someone indeed picked up a shooter.

Admittedly I find the former Liverpool talent’s reasons behind getting the artwork on his body a little odd. If my dad had been shot dead when I was a toddler, I’m not sure I’d want a constant reminder ‘to not touch a gun’ on the leg I was hoping to fire England to glory with. That said I don’t particularly care about the reasons behind the ink job or the piece in question itself. It’s Sterling’s body. It’s his reasons. And it’s his life. 

What I do care about is the way some in the national press have hounded Sterling for years.

‘Where, as journalist Leigh Curtis put it, are the stories focusing on the money he donated to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, gives to schools in Jamaica…’

It’s almost as if there is a campaign to undermine him and smear his name.

Where, as journalist Leigh Curtis put it, are the stories focusing on the money he donated to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, gives to schools in Jamaica, the community work he undertakes and the fact he uses his wealth to look after his mum. 

Sterling might come across to some as a bit of a fool but I don’t think he’s half as stupid as some would have you believe. 

So let’s hope it’s him and England who have the last laugh this summer. 

If anything, this saga seems to have galvanised the squad and brought them together in support of Sterling –so perhaps some good can come out of this after all. Let’s hope so.