Raheem Sterling unfazed by criticism ahead of England's World Cup journey

The maelstrom surrounding his gun tattoo was already swirling around him when it emerged he had turned up late for World Cup duty in the first place, prompting an apology to the entire squad.

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Then after Gareth Southgate had told his players not to risk diving on Saturday morning with VAR in operation at the World Cup, he was booked for simulation for going to ground to try to win a penalty against Nigeria at Wembley that afternoon.

But speaking at a meet-the-press event at St George’s Park yesterday aimed at breaking down barriers between the media and the squad, Sterling said it was all water off a duck’s back.

“Me and my mum and my agent sometimes talk,” Sterling said.

“Little things like what happened the other day, people expect me to be really affected by it.

“But I just find I’ve been through harder stuff in my life so to get down by that… it’s the least of my worries.

“I’ve got a massive opportunity here with a great bunch of players to represent England at a World Cup – That’s my biggest focus now.

“The tattoo thing goes by, it’s going to be spoken for one day, two days.

“If something bad or something negative happens, the majority of the time I have a think, think about what’s beensaid and at the end of it, respect it and go ahead and that’s it.”

“It’s just another thing to let go past in the two-day span and get on with football.

“That’s the most important thing for me.”

That said, he is appreciative of the support that has been shown to him by the England manager and the rest of the squad.

“From the minute Gareth Southgate came in he said the only thing we could control was what happened in our circle and on the training ground,” he added.

“In the past I think we’ve paid a bit too much attention to the outside and the way he’s brought the squad together as a unit and tried to limit what we do and talk about has been on a positive note.

“It lets people know we’ve got each other’s back.

“Especially with the stuff that has gone on in the past week. The boys have seen me round the place and, quite frankly, know that haven’t been really bothered by it.

“It’s one of those things. They get reported and that’s it.

“But they see me in the camp and know I’m fine.

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