What would I tell 19-year-old me? GET OFF social media, says Raheem Sterling

FOOTIE idol Raheem Sterling has revealed the key advice he would have given his teenage self: “Get off social media.”

The Manchester City star told how he was hurt to read a barrage of online abuse when he started to play for England at 19.

He spoke out while guest editing Radio 4’s Today programme, during which he chatted to England boss Gareth Southgate, his mum Nadine and broadcaster Amol Rajan.

Asked by Southgate what he would tell himself when he was 19, he said: “Come off social media — don’t read anything about yourself.”

He went on: “When I first came into the team, I was getting man of the matches.

“It was all nice. I was playing for England and really excited about that stuff.”

Clicking his fingers a single time, he added: “And then one thing happens and it’s constant bad, bad, negative, negative.

“When you’re putting this information into your brain, there’s only one way you’re going to react.

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“You’re going to feel down about yourself. You’re going to start overthinking. The one thing you don’t want to do as a human being, not just a footballer, is to overthink.

“I’d say, Stay away from looking at anything in regards to myself.”

Sterling, a hero of the Three Lions team which reached the Euro 2020 final, also spoke about dealing with racism and claimed racist incidents were quickly forgotten about.

He said: “I think a lot of the time when racism comes up and something has happened, a lot of times in football, and in the majority as a society, we tend to address it for that period, that five days, or that week, and then you know we normally brush it up under the carpet.”

He also told of his journey from playing football on the streets of Brent in North West London.

He endured “tough periods” starting out in the game.

And he said: “The one thing I always say, if anyone asks about being professional, is that no one gives you how it’s gonna pan out, no one gives you the formula.

“A lot of times you’ve got to face scenarios that you’ve never faced before.”

Sterling, 27, said he struggled at 18 and 19 to understand how to handle the various pressures.

He told the show: “Once you’re maturing and you understand how to deal with these things because you’ve now been through it, you build that mental resilience.”

The winger scored three goals in the Euro finals and made Uefa’s Team of the Tournament.

But he reckoned that personal praise meant little after England lost to Italy at the final hurdle.

The one thing you don’t want to do as a human being, not just a footballer, is to overthink.

He said: “The last couple of years with Gareth, you can see the steps we’ve been making as a team on the field and off the field.

“Everyone after the tournament was congratulating me and I was like, ‘Congratulating me for what?’

“They were like, ‘No, you had a lovely tournament’. I was like, ‘That’s not what the team set out to do.’ It was really disappointing.”

Sterling also credited Southgate for uniting the Three Lions squad since he took over as manager five years ago.

England had suffered one of their darkest days in major tournament football when they were knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland, ranked 34th in the world and with a population of just 330,000.

England have since finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup — their first semi-final appearance at the tournament for 28 years — and the final of Euro 2020 this year.

Southgate’s exciting young side will head to Qatar next year among the favourites to win the 2022 World Cup.

Sterling said: “After the Euros in France, the team came out of that with really bad press.

“It was a really difficult period over the next couple of years. The belief wasn’t there within the team.

“When Gareth came in, he really tried to make us understand that yes, that’s what the scarring is — but how are we going to change it?

“The team has grown as one. We want to do things as a collective. The one thing about this team is, when you come in the building, we are so integrated.”

Southgate said the decision for the team to take the knee before games to highlight racial injustice was another factor that helped unite the Three Lions ahead of Euro 2020.

A lot of times you’ve got to face scenarios that you’ve never faced before.

He said: “The lads didn’t realise how powerful that would be, going into the tournament, and they wanted to be judged on the football.

“I wanted to represent the players in the best way I could.”

Southgate also opened up about the racial abuse directed at Sterling and team-mates, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi by Montenegro fans in March 2019.

He said it proved a key moment for the England team.

He explained: “A lot of things happened including George Floyd that educated me.

“[By taking knee] we could send a message.”

As well as becoming an England hero Sterling, has won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cups at City.

He said he owes that success to a series of mentors in his life — including Southgate.

The player now hopes to offer similar support to young people through his charitable foundation.

In November he unveiled The Raheem Sterling Foundation at his old school, Ark Elvin Academy, in Wembley.

It aims to improve social mobility for young people in London, Manchester and Kingston, Jamaica, where he was born.

Sterling said he felt a “personal connection” to the work his foundation does and said the aim is to instil a belief in kids to keep chasing their dreams.

The star stressed under-privileged children need to believe that they can break through what he says is an invisible barrier.

Come off social media — don’t read anything about yourself.

He said: “If you grew up in a certain area you feel like there’s certain limits that you can’t reach.

“I think that’s what my whole dream or focus was when I was creating the foundation . . . trying to get people, young individuals, to understand there is that barrier that you can break up.”

Sterling lived in a three-bed bungalow with ten members of his extended family in Jamaica.

He was just two when his dad Phillip was shot dead by gangsters.

When his mum moved the family to the UK they lived on the tough St Raphael’s Estate in Neasden.

The little boy helped his mum clean hotel rooms as she tried to make ends meet.

Sterling recalled how he and his older sister Lakima would go with her on the early shifts and argue over who cleaned the toilet.

As a reward Nadine, a trained nurse who now runs a care home, would allow them to choose breakfast from the vending machine using change she found on the job.

Sterling began his career at local club Queens Park Rangers.

At their academy he was scouted by London sides Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham as well as Liverpool and Manchester City.

Nadine encouraged him not to choose clubs in the capital to ensure he escaped London’s gang culture.

He was signed by Liverpool in 2010 and played 95 times before switching to City five years later.

He has since played 211 times for them and scored 85 goals.

He has played for England at under-16, 17, 19, and 21 levels and has now scored 18 goals in 72 senior appearances.

Nadine said her son’s success is a “dream come true”.

She added: “Looking back at everything he has achieved, as a mum, I can say I am truly proud and I’m truly happy.”

Sterling added that his younger self would be “gassed — very happy” with the success he has now achieved.

And he said it is important for him to stay “in touch” with that little boy who was always “chasing something”.

‘Lions can take heat to lift Cup at Qatar’

RAHEEM Sterling believes England can win the World Cup in Qatar next year.

The 27-year-old, who scored three times while starring at Euro 2020, told BBC Radio 4 the Three Lions would love nothing more.

He said: “You can see the steps we’ve been making on and off the field.

“Yes, the Euros was a great journey but we were really disappointed.

“We want our hands on a trophy.

“There is nothing more important for me — and the lads will agree — there is nothing bigger than winning a major tournament for England.

“I don’t think you could beat that for us as players.

“I think we have players at the right ages, challenging for the right things and have the mentality to be the best in their position.

“We have a wonderful manager here that tries to give us the environment to perform at the highest level.”

The Manchester City ace added cheekily: “Hopefully with that speech I will get a place on the plane.”

The tournament’s controversial debut in the Middle East means games will have to be played in the winter to avoid searing heat.

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