PFA chief defends Sterling

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Sterling hit the back pages after scoring in Liverpool???s 2-0 win over Newcastle and then the front pages for inhaling the gas, which is described as a legal high.

PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes said the incident was a “blip” on Sterling???s career but that it would be left up to his club to handle the situation as the 20-year-old had not committed a crime.

“I think it???s clear that it???s not a situation that is desirable,” Barnes told Sky Sports News HQ.

“But at the same time it is a learning process and he hasn???t committed a crime. Yes, it???s not ideal but he???s at a good football club, he???s got good people around him and I???ve no doubt Brendan (Rodgers) will put his arm around him and at the same time make him aware of his responsibilities.

“I’m sure that this will just be something we???ll look back on as just a blip on his career in the future. Whether they choose to be or not, players are indeed role models and he???s done something which I???m certain he is now very well aware is something he won???t repeat.

“He’s a young man who is growing up in the public eye and every step he makes is going to be caught on camera, on video, and I think that the lesson for Raheem is that he???s going to have to be even more careful and even more sensible now.

“This is very much a learning curve for him and I???m sure that this has been a sharp warning to him of exactly the spotlight that he???s under now.”

The PFA runs a number of education programmes on drug, alcohol and lifestyle choices but Barnes said there were no plans to implement new strategies in response to recent incidents of players smoking, including Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.

“The fact of the matter is you can have all the education programmes in all industries and occasionally people are human and people will make mistakes,” Barnes said.

“It’s important that we acknowledge that young people, regardless of the education that???s put before them, will make mistakes, and not just footballers.”