Former England international Paul Ince feels Raheem Sterling's decision to get a gun tattooed on his leg was not the wisest decision, but he has little doubt the Manchester City ace has what it takes to deal with the recent negative attention and shine for England at the World Cup.
The 23-year-old was heavily criticised for a tattoo depicting a gun on his right leg, even though he swiftly explained it was part of an unfinished piece of body art paying tribute to his late father and had been there since August 2017.
It then emerged he arrived late to England's pre-World Cup training camp on the back of a mix-up with flights, while a lively showing in Saturday's 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria was stained by a yellow card for simulation during the second half.
Ince believes Sterling has not done himself any favours with his tattoo, but is not concerned the recent controversies will affect the attacker's performances in Russia.
"I do not think the symbol was right to honour his dad," Ince told Goal. "If it was me, and my dad passed away, I would have a picture of him on my chest and I do not think I would be having a gun. It is naive. I do not think he has spoken to anyone about it. I do not think anyone has given him advice on it and if they had done so then I do not think there would be a situation.
"Sterling, for the last year or so, has been fantastic at Manchester City. He has put his name on the map for a lot of people, especially for children. So he is a role model. People look at him to be a role model and he has to conduct himself in that way.
"He knows that the press is going to be on him. You have to take that on the chin. To be fair to him, he is thick skinned and he will take it on the chin. He will go and perform, but if he does not go and perform then you know they will be going back for him because that is what the media are like. His job now is to go and perform at the way he has been performing all season."
Sterling netted an impressive 18 goals in 33 Premier League appearances this term and Ince is hopeful the winger can replicate his club form at international level in the upcoming weeks.
"I think he is our secret weapon. He is the one who can actually do what no one else can do in our squad," Ince added.
Ince: Sterling is England's main threat alongside Kane
Former England ace Paul Ince believes Raheem Sterling is the Three Lions' main threat alongside Harry Kane going into the World Cup. 🦁🏆 Paul is an ambassador for Paddy Power and will be a guest on Paddy’s Boat Party which will be broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the World Cup. Watch the first episode on June 13th at 6pm.Posted by Goal.com on Friday, 8 June 2018
"He can beat one or two players. He can drag players out of systems which creates space for [Harry] Kane, Dele Alli and people to go and exploit. If you look through our England team there’s not people who can beat people.
"[Jesse] Lingard runs past people but he does not beat people. Alli is not the same, he is different. When you talk about someone who can frighten people, win free-kicks and win penalties. Sometimes he dives which is not what you want to see from an English player but if you asked other teams who they would be fearful of playing, I think it would be Kane and Sterling."
Paul Ince is an ambassador for Paddy Power and will be a guest on Paddy’s Boat Party which will be broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the World Cup. Watch the first episode on June 13th at 6pm.