Gareth Southgate has revealed the “genuine risks” to his England stars as they prepare for the European Championship this summer.
It comes as the Three Lions take on Croatia this Sunday at Wembley looking to go far in the tournament as one of the favourites.
But while fans are expecting fireworks on the pitch, there has been trouble away from it.
Online abuse has been highlighted as a huge issue this season with cases of racism almost on a weekly basis.
And Southgate has defended his players in a passionate plea to fans to refrain from taking to social media to abuse.
He told The Player’s Tribune: “I see players scrolling on their phones straight after the final whistle and I think … Hmmm, is that a particularly good idea?
“There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty.
“I trust them and know they are mature enough to make their own decisions, to do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society.”
It comes amid furore regarding the taking the knee stance before matches, which was roundly booed by fans during England’s warm-up matches last week at the Riverside Stadium.
How damaging is it for England fans to boo their players taking the knee? Comment below
Southgate added: “I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold.
“At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager.
“I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.
“Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in so many ways. In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades.
“Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.”
Speaking about the current group in his Euros squad, Southgate added: “This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves.
“Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.
“I have never believed that we should just stick to football.”