Euro 2016 England v Russia: Ex-Chelsea star Graeme Le Saux encourages fans and media to stick by team and forgive players for mistakes

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Le Saux has encouraged England fans to stick by their side (Source: Getty)

Former England left-back Graeme Le Saux has encouraged the English fans and media to be patient with Roy Hodgson's side and avoid creating a "destructive culture of fear" within the squad.

The ex-Chelsea and Southampton star played at the 1998 World Cup, the last international tournament held in France, and has revealed that the intense pressure on England had the potential to hamper players' performances.

Just as they did 18 years ago, England kick-off their campaign in Marseille tonight, with an enigmatic Russia side lying in wait.

The Three Lions are expected to win and then win Group B.

But as Le Saux knows from experience, international fixtures can often be more daunting tasks than they appear, and so the defender has warned against burdening a young England squad with heavy criticism should they slip up at the first hurdle.

Read more: Five reasons why England can win the European Championships in France

"We as fans just have to watch them and seem them develop and evolve and not expect them to win every game three or four-nil. And that starts with a tough opener against Russia," he told City A.M.

"I cast my mind back to Spain when they won the World Cup in South Africa, they lost their first game to Switzerland 1-0 in the opening game. I remember saying to friends ‘Imagine if that was England who lost to Switzerland in their opening game?’ It would have been carnage from a fan and press point of view.

"But actually Fernando Torres said afterwards; 'Look, we’re obviously disappointed but we’re not going to change the way we’re playing. This is how we play.’ And then they went on and won the World Cup.

"Sometimes you’ve just got to temper the emotions and believe that what they’re doing and the manager’s doing is the right thing."

Read more: Five reasons why England cannot win the European Championships in France

With five strikers in their squad and an array of attacking midfielders, England are expected to adopt an adventurous attacking style.

Hodgson has been encouraged to shed some of his more conservative instincts and let his youngsters off the leash.

For that to be a success, Le Saux has warned that players must be free from fear of making a mistake and allowed to take risks.

Le Saux played for England the last time a major tournament was held in France (Source: Getty)

"Certainly one of the downsides from playing for the national team is the fact you are under so much more scrutiny, the whole of the British press stop to focus on your game," explained Le Saux.

"Whereas when you're playing for your club, it's sort of diluted with all the other games going on. In 1998 we felt a lot of hostility towards players.

"It's very destructive for players. It creates a culture of fear within the players that they don't want to make a mistake and you'll never get the best out of them. It's so important that, whilst we're critical of our players if they don't perform to the standards we expect, that they still feel they can go out and express themselves and take risks on the pitch because without that sort of comfort of knowing that if you make a mistake people understand.

"I’m not talking about reckless mistakes, but you have to take chances in certain situations to get the result. You need to know as a player that you’re not going to get destroyed as a result."

Graeme Le Saux was speaking on behalf of LloydsPharmacy’s Online Doctor service.

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