Harry Kane and his compatriots have, I’m certain, been called far worse.

Yet the outcry over the England football team being called “s**t” – a fairly mild swear word in most people’s book - has been quite remarkable.

The insult, or the assessment, came from Gary Lineker and referred to the England team’s performance in their second group game at the Euros, in which they drew 1-1 with Denmark.

Lineker’s comments garnered such attention that they were put to England captain Kane, who responded by saying “It’s not digging anyone out, but it’s just the reality that they (former players such as Lineker) do know it’s tough to play in these major tournaments and tough to play for England.

“I’d never disrespect any ex-player. All I would say is, remember what it was like to wear this shirt and that their words are listened to.

“Some of the lads, I don’t know how many of the lads, you do hear it, we all want to win a major tournament, I’m sure they want us to win a major tournament. And yeah, being as helpful as they can, building the lads up with confidence would be a much better way of going about it.”

Clearly Lineker’s views hold more weight than most given his status as a former internationalist.

Gary Lineker has been criticised by Kane for slating the England team's performanceGary Lineker has been criticised by Kane for slating the England team's performance

But the Englishman has been a media man for far longer than he ever was a professional footballer and to suggest his decade playing for England should colour entirely the way he works in the media is, frankly ridiculous.

Lineker has every right to give his opinion, be it positive or negative. 

As he rightly pointed out, he’s quick to praise the England team when they’re good but that, in turn, means he must not sugar-coat his opinion when the team is rubbish. Which it was against Denmark.

Branding England’s performance against Denmark in a positive light would have been preposterous and would have, quite rightly, damaged the former striker’s credibility as an analyst. 

It’s absolutely right that Lineker’s comments carry weight. It’s a common trope for athletes to suggest those who have never played sport at the top level don’t really know what they’re talking abut and while in the main, I don’t agree with that sentiment, there’s unquestionably certain elements of elite sport that one cannot fully appreciate unless they’ve been there themselves.

There’s literally no way of imagining exactly what it feels like to walk out at an Olympic Games or World Cup or, in this case, European Championships, unless you’ve been there.

That absolutely does not disqualify anyone who’s not done it from passing opinion on the athletes who are out there competing, but there also has to be a realisation from those who’ve never been there that so unique is the feeling of being in that environment, it’s impossible to fully understand.

So yes, being an elite athlete and competing on the very biggest stages of them all is hard. 

And while part of being an elite athlete means doing all you can to be at your best physically when it really matters, being an elite athlete is also about dealing with the mental strain that comes with pressure and expectation. 

And it also means dealing with the mental strain of being called s**t.

There is not an athlete on the planet who’s achieved anything of note who has not been called s**t, or some other iteration of this criticism.

From Roger Federer to Usain Bolt to Cristiano Ronaldo, despite being amongst the best sportsmen who have ever lived, they’ve all, also, at one time or another been rubbish.

That’s okay. No one can be brilliant every single time.

But what’s also okay is for the media to recognise their mediocrity.

And any athlete who can’t handle that just isn’t suited to elite sport. Because if they can’t handle criticism, they’re really not cut out to make it right to the top of their chosen discipline.

Any athlete worth their salt will admit they are the ones who put the most pressure upon themselves, and they’re their own worst critics. 

If that wasn’t the case, they simply would never have made it to a high level.

Which brings us back to Kane.

I like Kane. In my opinion, he’s a likeable guy.

He’s also a very, very good footballer. And you don’t become a very good footballer without being hugely critical of yourself. 

It’s perhaps why Lineker’s words touched such a nerve with Kane – he knows his team were substandard and having their poor performance being called out by a former England legend is, admittedly, not ideal.

But it’s also part of sport.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that if someone gets paid millions of pounds, as these footballers do, then nothing is off-limits.

Yes, becoming a millionaire for kicking a football is great but it doesn’t mean you can’t have boundaries. 

But I do think being an international footballer means you should be able to take someone, whoever it is, calling you s**t without whining that your critics should be a bit nicer about you.

Kane claimed it’s very hard for the players to avoid seeing negative comments whether they come from Lineker or elsewhere. But if comments are going to have such a monumental effect on them, then they need to, frankly, try harder to avoid them.

But rather than any athlete believing the solution is to shield themselves entirely from any kind of criticism, the real answer is actually to toughen up.

You want Lineker and the rest to stop calling you s**t? 

The solution is easy. 

It’s not moaning about being criticised, it’s to stop being s**t.