Raheem Sterling deserves "a lot of credit" for standing up to racists in football, says ex-England player John Fashanu, who hailed the Manchester City winger as a "warrior".
Sterling has been in the headlines recently for the wrong reasons after being left out of the England team for their recent Euro 2020 qualifying win over Montenegro.
The 24-year-old was dropped by coach Gareth Southgate after a confrontation with Liverpool defender and Three Lions team-mate Joe Gomez, though he will be back in the squad for Sunday's game against Kosovo.
And while Fashanu believes Sterling has shown his maturity by speaking up about how black players are portrayed in British media, he also says the winger would have fit into his famously physical Wimbledon side decades ago.
“You have to give him a lot of credit – to stand up for himself the way he does is what you want from every player," Fashanu told The Daily Star.
"We all know about his amazing talents, his amazing maturity in taking on the racists in the game – and demanding black and white players are portrayed equally by the media.
“But now we see he also possesses this rare inner strength. There’s a street brawler burning away inside him when it comes to football and life. The boy’s
“Raheem would have been perfect with Vinnie Jones and me at Wimbledon. We just loved team-mates like that – someone not scared of anything, a warrior.”
Fashanu, who represented the national team twice in 1989, says Southgate overreacted by leaving Sterling out of the team for the 7-0 victory but he is sure the Manchester City star will return with a strong performance as England conclude their qualifying campaign on Sunday.
“Gareth has done what he thinks is right. He has shown his authority and laid down the law like all good leaders," he said.
“To drop Raheem was a bit much for a little scuffle. I can assure you I’ve seen and been involved in a lot worse. My old Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear wouldn’t have had a team to pick if he’d banned us after every fight.
“But it’s 2019 and this England team are massive news across the world. In that respect, Gareth has done what’s best for the group.
“And it’s impossible to criticise him when England score seven against Montenegro – without Raheem.”
He added: “Raheem would have been hacked off sitting in the stands at Wembley but he’ll get over it.
“He doesn’t seem the type to react negatively to this sort of incident. As ever, I expect him to rise above the noise and destroy his opponents – on and off the pitch.
“Put it this way, I’d be damned scared if I was a Kosovo player.”