During the International break Raheem Sterling has caught the headlines for, quite literally, off the field reasons.
Sterling has been a revelation for club and country since the start of the season, putting in some solid performances. However, as England prepared to face Estonia in the Euro 2016 qualifier it became clear that Raheem Sterling wouldn’t be named in the starting eleven, with Adam Lallana eventually named ahead of him.
Images of Roy Hodgson pulling Sterling to one side during a training session sprung up, adding to the confusion of why he had been dropped after the fine start to the season he has been having. This came not long after Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports news that Sterling needs to be managed carefully.
Hodgson later explained that Sterling was complaining about his energy levels and how he did not feel that he was up to his usual standards after the training session. This prompted me to wonder if it is okay for a professional footballer to get tired, particularly so early on in the season, and what Sterling’s reasons behind the incident were.
The 2014/15 season has seen Sterling become a big player both for club and country. Of course, an important role brings immense pressure. Liverpool are a team with a vast amount of history, while we all know how much pressure both English fans and the media alike put on international stars.
Such a large amount of responsibility has definitely had an effect on Sterling and I believe it is draining his energy, not physically, but mentally. Last season at Liverpool there were times when he was considered an important player, however he was still behind the likes of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, which eased the pressure on him. Liverpool are now without Suarez and Sturridge is out injured, increasing the air of importance on Sterling.
Mental not physical
In my opinion Sterling was still in a perfectly acceptable physical condition, as he was still able to inject pace into the England attack when he did eventually come on against Estonia.
Whenever an English player hits good form, everyone decides to rave about how good they could be. Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley come to mind. All of these players have been tipped for greatness in the past, only to hit a dip in form. Whether down to injuries, game time or any other reason, there is a pattern – becoming depending on young players too fast. This comes down to the passionate fans and media, who will rant and rave about players after a few good performances – only increasing the expectancy of the fans and the player himself.
As a result, the pressure builds up and eventually gets to the players, especially those of a younger age. Young players are not necessarily used to or ready for such a high level of expectancy or responsibility.
It has been reported that Sterling went to Hodgson to ask for a rest – which, to me, shows a sign of maturity. He knows his body and his mind better than anybody else and isn’t prepared to risk it. Even though he still featured from the bench against Estonia, it will allow him to learn from it. The game wont have been as tough on him as if he had started.
Overall Sterling and Roy Hodgson have done the right thing. Estonia did not provide the best opposition, so his absence did not affect the team drastically. Being able to replace him with a player like Lallana only highlights the depth that England have in attack.