Raheem Sterling [Photo: Courtesy]

Raheem Sterling's memories of the tough streets of Kingston, Jamaica, are understandably sketchy.

The England star left the crime-torn community of Maverley when he was just five-years-old.

But the pain of the tragedy and hardship he suffered on the Caribbean island is unmistakable.

When Sterling was a young boy, his dad was murdered, gunned down in an ambush in front of his own father in Kingston. He was in his late 20s. Friends suggested he may have had links to gangs.

This week, the Manchester City forward sparked fury among anti-gun campaigners after he unveiled a new tattoo depicting an M16 assault rifle on his right leg.

 Raheem Sterling [Photo: Courtesy]

Later, he defended the inking, citing its "deeper meaning" - his dad's death.

On Instagram, he wrote: "When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my life time.

"I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning and still unfinished."

It was a rare insight into a subject Sterling had chosen to keep private.

It was also a reminder of the 23-year-old's burdensome path to stardom.

Sterling's early years were in Maverley, an area plagued by guns, drugs and gangland violence.

He lived with as many as eight relatives, including his mother, Nadine Clarke, in a modest three-bedroom bungalow. Money was scarce and times were hard.

There was fierce rivalry between his neighborhood and Waterhouse, the area his dad came from.

At the age of three, Sterling was introduced to football by his cousin, Wayne Mattison, now 53.

He'd spent up to eight hours a day playing, stopping only when gun violence flared nearby.

Concerned for her children's safety and futures, Nadine, now 44, left Jamaica for a new life in London, leaving Sterling and his older stepsister Lakima with their grandmother, Joy Morris.

 Sterling's grandmother Joy Morris (second left) [Photo: Courtesy]

Speaking to the Sun on Sunday ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Joy, 59, told how her grandson's first kick bouts were with a juice carton because they couldn't afford a football.

Joy, who now lives in Canada, said Sterling would often play against older children, adding: “His life hasn’t been easy. It was a tough place to grow up and he had to be sharp."

Eventually, Sterling and Lakima joined their mum in England.

His life in England was almost as difficult as he moved regularly before the family settled on the St Raphael’s estate in Neasden, north-west London, in the shadow of Wembley Stadium.

Sterling went to Vernon House, a school for kids with educational needs. It was there that he began to concentrate on his schoolwork and, at the age of 10, he took up football seriously.

The rest, as they say, is history.

 Sterling [Photo: Courtesy]

Sterling, who is just 5ft 7ins, joined QPR at the age of 11. By 14, he was playing in the reserves.

He joined Liverpool at 15 in a £500,000 deal, becoming the club’s second youngest player ever at 17 years and 107 days. In 2015, he joined Man City in a £50million deal.

This summer, he'll be part of a dynamic England forward line at the World Cup in Russia.

Other than the circumstances of his murder, little is known about Sterling's dad.

His Instagram post aside, Sterling has opted against speaking publicly about his father or or his death. His relatives don't like to talk about it either.

But one of his father's friends suggested a love of football is in Sterling's blood.

He told the Sun on Sunday : “He loved football and must have passed it on in his genes to his son. Raheem was obviously very upset. It shook the family.”

With all he's been through, it's no surprise that Sterling - whose surname comes from his mum's former partner Errol Sterling - is a man who places great importance on family.

 Sterling's leg tattoo [Photo: Courtesy]

Another tattoo on his arm is dedicated to his mum.

It says: "Thank you mama for the nine months you carried me, through all the pain and suffering.”

Speaking to Mirror Football in 2013 , he said: “My Mum rules my life - she’s a nightmare at times, but I love her and she’s the main person in my life.

“She has got a very strong personality and thinks she’s the boss!

Sterling, who supports his mum financially and has bought his sister a house, is also a devoted dad to daughter Melody Rose, five, from a previous relationship, and son Thiago, born in 2017.

Later this year, he's expected to tie the knot with his long-term girlfriend, Thiago's mum, Paige Milian. Kingston, where he owns a £1million mansion, has been mooted as a possible location.

 Paige Milian and Sterling [Photo: Courtesy]

Sterling's pride in his roots and family is as admirable as it is clear.

His experiences in Jamaica, tragedy included, are important. They've helped shape the character England will be relying on this summer. He shouldn't forget them. Neither should anyone else.

Raheem Sterling;Manchester City;Jamaica