Declan Rice has apologised for old social media posts he made as a teenager which appeared to support the IRA, with manager Gareth Southgate saying they are “not representative” of what the England new boy believes.
Already under the spotlight after switching allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, the 20-year-old’s preparations for a potential Three Lions debut have been disrupted by the unearthing of comments he made in 2015.
Rice’s Instagram posts resurfaced on the eve of the Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic, with one saying ‘My brudda. UP THE RA. Wait till we draw England’, and another using the hashtag ‘UPTHERA’.
The West Ham defensive midfielder, who represented the Republic at youth levels and won three senior caps, was quick to release a statement on the matter.
Rice said in an Instagram story post: “I am aware that a poorly-expressed comment I made when I was a junior player has been circulated on social media.
“I recognise now that my attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time could be negatively interpreted.
“While my naive words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused.”
The Football Association was quick to react when Rice’s comments were published, with an official saying: “We are aware of the matter and will be writing to him to remind him of his responsibilities.”
England manager Southgate was asked about the old social media posts at Thursday’s press conference previewing the Czech Republic qualifier at Wembley.
“Well, I think, exactly as you said, he’s apologised,” the former defender said.
“It’s not representative of what he believes and feels, and his views.
“And outside of that, the obvious point is that this was when he was 15 or 16 when he was engaged in a social conversation with friends.
“I think any of us at that age, in those sorts of situations have probably said things, discussed things, written things, that might not look the way that’d we’d want (them to) several years later, so I don’t think he can say or do any more than he’s said at this point in time.”
It is certainly an unwanted sideshow ahead of Friday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic and leads to questions over whether Rice will be accepted by some England fans.
“I think people understand,” Southgate added. “Most people will have children of those sorts of ages and people are still maturing at that age.
“You’re in conversations with friends that, you can get giddy and you can say things that maybe you don’t even know enough about or you don’t understand the context.
“So, I think our fans and our public will recognise that fact.”
Then there is the fact that a minority of England supporters chant anti-IRA songs, as well as “no surrender” during the national anthem.
Asked if the Rice’s situation undermines the FA’s work to eradicate such issues, Southgate said: “Well, we have to make sure that it doesn’t.
“Our message doesn’t change, and I think Declan’s statement is consistent with that, so we still would be against any of our supporters taking up that sort of stance and I don’t think anything changes from an FA or England point of view.”