A Sterling Potential

A Sterling Potential

By Oli Gamp

A SPARKLING DISPLAY on his full debut against Manchester City last weekend certainly turned a few heads; especially considering the decision to start him in such a match raised several eyebrows before
a ball was kicked. He caused experienced centre-back Kolo Toure all sorts of problems in the first half, notably escaping his attentions to deliver a beautiful cross for Fabio Borini; who certainly should have given Liverpool the lead and Sterling a deserved assist, but somehow volleyed wide. His touch and confidence on the ball was of sublime quality for someone so young as he looked to use his pace and silky dribbling skills to not only take defenders on, but also shore things up at the back, and counter the threat posed by Manchester City’s powerful array of attacking talent.

At the raw age of just 17 years old, the Jamaica-born winger didn’t look at all out of place- leaving 28-year-old Stewart Downing on the bench, wondering how he might alter Rodgers’s vision of a youthful future for the Anfield club.

When Sterling first joined Queens Park Rangers as a mere 10-year- old, he surely could never imagine that in a matter of years he would become one of the hottest properties in English football, but when he appeared on the front cover of his homeland’s national newspaper, The Gleaner, a few years later, it showed a sign of things to come as they wrote how he had “dazzled the English Football world with his prodigious talent.” They were spot on. It came to light that the major teams in the Premier League were all tracking his progress, as he eventually signed for Liverpool in 2010 for a fee that could rise to £5 million depending on future appearances.

I believe the first time I took notice of the youngster was when I watched him play in the FA Youth Cup against Southend United, scoring five goals in a scintillating performance as his team stormed
to a 9-0 win. Everything was set up for Sterling to embark on the most spectacular of football careers; the like of which we’ve been dazzled by in years gone by players like Owen, Beckham, Rooney,
Bale, and countless others. Surely nothing can stop this ‘prodigious talent’ from becoming a relentless force in the Premier League and the next Englishman to force Martin Tyler to scream, “Get that man a knighthood”?

How could we all be so naïve?

An enlightening clip, filmed by American channel Fox Soccer, shows manager Brendan Rodgers laying into Sterling for an apparent lack of attention during a training session on their pre-season tour of the US.
“You’ll be on the next plane home.” Warns Rodgers as he stresses the importance of an attitude change in the player. The reason this clip is so interesting is because of its exclusivity. All we see as fans are interviews, matches, and occasionally glimpses of training sessions. We don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes action including team talks and how the manager talks to the players. I’ve no idea how Fox managed to keep such footage and release it, but it certainly gives us an idea of the reality of Sterling’s maturity at this stage. But is this sort of thing normal? Could Sir Alex tell us he experienced similar problems with Rooney, Scholes and Giggs? Most people would doubt it.

Is he ready for the Premier League yet? Rodgers’s selected him to start against the Champions and played him for the full 90; a decision that paid off, so he has clearly pulled his socks up since. However, this poor trait discovered in Sterling could hinder his progress. At 17 years of age, he is at a crucial stage in his development as a player and he simply cannot afford to take his foot off the gas if he wants to make it in the big time; something he is more than capable of achieving.

(*ED- Since this article was written the video referenced in the piece has been removed from You Tube)