Liverpool F.C.

On the pitch, his play hit new heights. Off it, he was football's man of the year – I had to vote for Raheem Sterling

I voted for Sterling because he has been the stand-out player in Pep Guardiola's Manchester City team who will win the Premier League title for the second time in succession if they close out their remaining three matches against Burnley, Leicester and Brighton.

I voted for him because the real privilege of being at England's behind-closed-doors match against Croatia in Rijeka last autumn was seeing Sterling close up, getting a more intimate glimpse not just of the football skills we're all aware of but the way he holds off defenders with his upper body strength, his determination, his tenacity.

In the aftermath of the abuse Sterling suffered, I was invited to become part of a WhatsApp group that consisted mainly of black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists.

You will know by now that on Friday UEFA announced they had ordered Montenegro to play a game behind closed doors and fined the Montenegrin FA £17,600 for the racial abuse aimed at Sterling, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Rose during the Euro 20 qualifier in Podgorica last month.

The growing feeling that the lower levels of English league football are facing greater threats to their survival at a time when there has never been more money at the highest point of the pyramid was reinforced last week.

For not only was Bolton Wanderers' fixture against Brentford on Saturday postponed because their players said, not unreasonably, that they would refuse to play unless they were paid but Bury owner Steve Dale also published an open letter to supporters.

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