ASHTON and Failsworth MP Angela Rayner has praised England manager Gareth Southgate’s open letter to fans that insists players have a "duty" to interact with the public on issues such as "equality, inclusivity and racial injustice".

It comes after England players said they will continue to highlight racial injustice by taking the knee before matches despite being booed for the gesture by England fans ahead of last week's European Championship warm-up matches against Austria and Romania.

In an open letter to fans in The Players’ Tribune, the England Manager described football players as “role models”, adding: “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.”

Referring to the England manager’s recent comments, Ms Rayner said: “This is patriotism, and this is what being proud of our country looks like. This makes me proud to be English and proud to support these inspiring players taking a stand against racism.”

In the article, Gareth Southgate also refers to the abuse levelled at his England players on social media.

He added: “Why would you choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Unfortunately for those people that engage in that kind of behaviour, I have some bad news. You’re on the losing side. It’s clear to me that we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society, and I know our lads will be a big part of that.”