Raheem Sterling wants to feel the love from England fans ahead of the World Cup as he sets his sights on replicating his Manchester City form on the international stage.
Sterling has never had the smoothest relationship with supporters of the national side, memorably dubbing himself ‘the hated one’ in an Instagram post during Euro 2016.
The 23-year-old has clearly felt the jeers more keenly than the cheers during his international career, but he has appealed for the England faithful to rally behind both him and the team before they take on the world in Russia.
Wembley will get the chance to respond during the friendly against Italy on Tuesday night and Sterling believes an uplifting show of support would lift the side immeasurably.
“I feel sometimes there’s a bit too much negativity. I would love to hear some positive notes going in, just to make the boys know that everyone’s behind them,” he told BBC Radio Five Live.
“If you want your country to do well, as everyone says, bring a positive light into it. Make the boys go off to the World Cup with clear heads, knowing everyone’s behind them, everyone’s with them.
“We know what we can do, I believe what we can do, it’s just having that support and that backing…you know, feel loved.
“Trust me, I think you’ll definitely see a better England.”
Reflecting on his difficult experiences in France two years ago, he said: “As young boy, I was 20-21…around that age, I didn’t think I was being treated right.
“There was a lot of talk, a lot of pressure, I didn’t think I was being spoken about in a fair manner.”
He is now thriving under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola, enjoying the most productive season of his career with 20 goals in all competitions.
By contrast he has struck just twice in 36 caps for his country and not since October 2015.
Sterling admits that is a poor return on his ability and is eager to put things right.
“I should be scoring a lot more for England,” he said.
“I’ve done that at my club, I wasn’t scoring a lot of goals there, but turned it around and started scoring. Same with England, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and score more. It gives you a lot of confidence when you do well for your club and you want to do as much as you can for your country.
“It will be a matter of time. I do have that feeling that it is going to come soon.”
Sterling has become something of a last-gasp specialist at City, hitting a series of important late goals, and jokingly bemoaned Southgate’s reluctance to leave him on the field for the full 90 minutes.
He completed just one of his seven qualifying appearances in the last campaign, substituted four times and coming from the bench twice, but he has clearly played his way into a key role under Guardiola’s guidance.
“You can see the confidence in him,” said Southgate.
“You can see the positions he’s taking up, his belief in front of goal, he’s scored more goals this week in training than I’ve ever seen.
“That’s not necessarily because he’s technically better, he’s just thinking about the types of finishes a little bit more. Not snatching at things, passing into the net. More confident. More composed.
“What we’ve got to do as a team is create more chances as he gets at club level, that’s the next step for us.”