England manager Gareth Southgate has asked fans to be sympathetic towards midfielder Declan Rice, after the 20-year-old was found to have posted a pro-IRA comment on Instagram in the past.
Rice, who recently confirmed his decision to represent England over the Republic of Ireland, has apologised for the comment, which he made in 2015, and Southgate has now called for fans to accept his apology and move on.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s clash with the Czech Republic, Southgate insisted that the West Ham United wonderkid should not be judged for the comment. He is quoted by The Sun as saying:
“I understand that it’s not a situation that should just be dismissed but equally the context, the period of time that’s passed and his age at the time is all relevant in how we should deal with it.
“When they’re socialising with friends, you’re a bit braver in some of your comments or a bit less thoughtful in some of your comments, so I think for all young people that is a danger.
“I think he’s explained how he views the world today and it’s difficult to know without speaking to him what the context of that was.
“He’s apologised. It’s not representative of what he believes and feels, and his views.
“And outside of that, the obvious point is that this was when he was 15 or 16 when he was engaged in a social conversation with friends.
“I think any of us at that age, in those sorts of situations have probably said things, discussed things, written things, that might not look the way that’d we’d want them to several years later, so I don’t think he can say or do any more than he’s said at this point in time.
“I think people understand; most people will have children of those sorts of ages and people are still maturing at that age.
“You’re in conversations with friends that, you can get giddy and you can say things that maybe you don’t even know enough about or you don’t understand the context.