Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now
Get the FREE Mirror Football newsletter by email with the day’s key headlines and transfer news
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
Gareth Southgate has revealed the "genuine risks" to his England stars as they prepare for the European Championship this summer.
It comes as the Three Lions take on Croatia this Sunday at Wembley looking to go far in the tournament as one of the favourites.
England are blessed with a number of talented youngsters, such as Phil Foden and Mason Mount, dashed with some absolute world-class stars, including Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.
But while fans are expecting fireworks on the pitch, there has been trouble away from it.
Online abuse has been highlighted as a huge issue this season with cases of racism almost on a weekly basis.
Gareth Southgate has vowed to defend his players from online abuse
(Image: The FA via Getty Images)
And Southgate has defended his players in a passionate plea to fans to refrain from taking to social media to abuse.
He told The Player's Tribune: “I see players scrolling on their phones straight after the final whistle and I think … Hmmm, is that a particularly good idea?
“Reading abusive comments on Twitter or Instagram is never going to help performance.
Liverpool transfer alternative to Jadon Sancho put forward by John Barnes
Rio Ferdinand explains why "ignorant" England fans who boo stars taking knee are wrong
“There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty.
"I trust them and know they are mature enough to make their own decisions, to do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society.”
It comes amid furore regarding the taking the knee stance before matches, which was roundly booed by fans during England’s warm-up matches last week at the Riverside Stadium.
How damaging is it for England fans to boo their players taking the knee? Comment below
England players were booed as they took the knee last week
(Image: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com)
Southgate added: “I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold.
“At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager.
"I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.
“Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in so many ways. In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades.
"Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.”
Southgate is preparing his team for Euro 2020 which gets underway this week
(Image: Getty Images)
Speaking about the current group in his Euros squad, Southgate added: "This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves.
"Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.
"I have never believed that we should just stick to football.”