KEITH Curle says there is a “long journey” ahead to eradicate racism from football, and society.

The Oldham Athletic head coach has reacted to the abuse directed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the wake of England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.

The trio missed penalties in the shoot-out against Italy, after England had ended a 55-year wait to reach the final of a major tournament but missed out on silverware.

But the topic quickly switched from the devastation of defeat to discrimination as racism reared its ugly head.

The three youngsters received abhorrent online abuse, while a mural of Rashford in South Manchester was defaced, albeit quickly covered in post-it notes and flags with messages of support and positivity to cover up the racist graffiti before it was repainted.

Curle said he was “disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised” at the abuse that Rashford, Sancho and Saka had been subjected to.

His comments were made shortly before Oldham Athletic themselves announced they had reported racist comments aimed at a club director to Greater Manchester Police, following an incident at Saturday’s friendly at Ashton United.

“Is it modern day society where they think that people can say and do what they want without after effects or any compassion for the effect of what they’re saying to the person,” Curle said.

“Do I think it’s the majority? No. Is it a very small minority? Yes.”

But despite believing that most people do not harbour racist views, Curle believes it could take years to weed out.

“I think changing a mindset doesn’t come overnight and it’s a long journey that we’re on,” said the 57-year-old, who is one of only seven non-white managers within the 92 Premier League and EFL clubs.

“Naive people think they can stop racism in a short period of time.

“It’s something that happens over decades, over continuous educations of acceptance.

“We’re laying a pathway now for future generations of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.”

Asked whether perpetrators needed punishment or education, he said: “I think it’s a mixture. I think you try to educate them but also within it as well there’s accountability for what they’ve done.

“How far can you go with that accountability, is it a custodial sentence? Is it a lifetime ban on social media platforms? Is it a total ban off the internet?

“It’s finding the suitable punishment for the crime that’s been committed, but some people don’t see it as a crime.

“Some people genuinely think they should be able to voice their opinion. I think the big thing with racism at the minute, is it just because a racist is somebody that vents their views verbally, or is it about what people think, which is harder to detect.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he added: “I think the media have got a lot of responsibility as in the messages that they put out.

“Somebody told me that the coverage refused to show a streaker or someone that invaded the pitch or the TV cameras would refuse to give them airtime because they didn’t want them to get notoriety because that’s what they were thriving on, but the next day everything is about what’s been put up on message boards and Twitter accounts.

“I would say ‘are you doing your job?’ ‘are you helping the issue by commentating and reporting on it?’.”

Asked whether that would appease racists, if they were ignored and did not suffer consequences, Curle added: “I can understand that but then if people know that you’re looking for them, they go underground.

“It’s a case of the less exposure you give them, but work can go on behind the scenes to identify these people and deal with the people as the law of the land sees fit.”

But Curle says he would rather focus on the positives than dwell on the negatives of recent days.

“I’m still applauding the team for their efforts and their commitment and their performances collectively and individually and how they were led by the manager. I think they’ve been a credit,” he continued.

“There’s disappointment within that, because we’re in a sport where everybody wants to win.

“That’s probably why I’ve, not so much ignored, but I haven’t got myself involved in the negativity because I’m a big believer that negativity enjoys company.”