BURTON-ON-TRENT -- England defender Ryan Bertrand has revealed that the Grenfell Tower disaster had a profound effect on him and says he is working to change the lives of the victims.
At least 80 people died in June when a fire engulfed Grenfell -- a high-rise towerblock in north Kensington, London -- similar to the one where Bertrand grew-up in neighbouring borough Southwark. The 28-year-old Southampton left-back still has family living in London towerblocks, all of which are under scrutiny following the fire, and he visited Grenfell with friends on June 16, two days after the tragedy.
"The world's a bit crazy at the moment. Over the last few years, there have been catastrophes everywhere, but that was on our doorstep, nearby... I just wanted to do something more," the Southampton left-back said.
"I had friends who grew up in similar circumstances, so it hit me. I had a few friends from the estate, so we wanted to see what we could do. I went down to the estate to ask questions, see how things were going, get a feel for it and see what I could do to make a difference. We're in the process of seeing if we can do a few things, and I don't want to say too much. But things are on-going.
"They [my friends] are fine, but when you hear the stories... it's mad, crazy.
"I grew-up in south-east London, Southwark, so not right there but I spent a good few years in south-west London and I'm familiar with the territory. Most families -- my Nan, my aunties still live in tower blocks. They love it -- it's home to them.
"It struck a nerve. Growing up in similar tower blocks when I was a kid, albeit in different areas of London, it was somewhere close by." Bertrand is thought to be involved in the rehousing of Grenfell residents, some of whom are still fighting to remain in the same area, and the England international is hoping to use his profile to make a difference. Asked if he wanted to give his time, rather than simply donate money, Bertrand said: "Yes, yes, that was the main idea. To do more. This came up and resonated with me. I thought I could do more.
"I'm in a half decent position so maybe I could do more than just donate. Donating is great -- I'm not saying that's a bad thing -- but I took a bit of time and went down there hoping to try and change something, even if it was one family's lives. It can be life changing.
"I'm not saying, 'I'm Ryan Bertrand flying in to see what I could do'. I'm not the biggest footballer in the world. But I have some sort of status so I just wanted to see what I could do to help."
The government and local council have been fiercely criticised for their response to the disaster, particularly the lack of infrastructure to support victims in the immediate aftermath. And Bertrand added: "It was a bit out of control. There was no main structure when I was down there. That was blocking things. No-one knew who to go to, who was dealing with this or that. I haven't been back since, no." Bertrand is expected to win his 17th England cap in Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Slovenia at Wembley, where a win would guarantee the Three Lions a spot in next summer's tournament in Russia.