football

Southgate urges Sterling critics to "keep asking questions" of England hero


Raheem Sterling has gone from “hated one” to national treasure.

Sterling has been England’s driving force in the Euros, three goals in four games and twice the match winner as he has now scored 15 goals in his last 20 caps.

Manchester City star Sterling is the local boy made good, the home grown superstar who grew up a stone’s throw from Wembley and is now the star of the show.

That is a tribute to a player who took so much stick from fans at Euro 2016 that he called himself the “hated one” on social media and only managed two goals in his first 45 games for England.



Raheem Sterling has been England's main man this summer, scoring three times in four games
Raheem Sterling has been England’s main man this summer, scoring three times in four games

After his first game when he scored the winner against Croatia, he was even asked in a live TV interview whether it justified his selection and his face was a picture afterwards of embarrassment and disbelief.

Sterling is way beyond that, he is England’s main man who cannot stop scoring and deserves more respect that people questioning his place in the team.

England boss Gareth Southgate says it is also down to Sterling’s mentality, the ability to shrug off such inane questions because he has been through so much… and emerged out the other side.

Southgate said: “Yes, please keep asking the questions because if we cannot motivate him everyone else will certainly be able to. Absolutely incredible, really.

“He is a fighter. He has got an incredible resilience and hunger. He has developed over the last couple of years this real hunger to score even in the games where the opportunities where the ball has flashed the across the box earlier in the tournament, he has been in between the posts.

“He is finding himself in these areas and yes, his drive is fantastic, we know the journey he has been on with England and I am so happy for him to be able to deliver the performances he has.



Gareth Southgate believes Sterling's critics can help motivate him even further
Gareth Southgate believes Sterling’s critics can help motivate him even further

“To deliver them at Wembley will have been really special for him and as you said, the goals return is incredible.”

Sterling, 26, has been through enough trials and tribulations in his career not to let this grind him down. His controversial move from Liverpool to Manchester City, struggling to live up to his £49m price tag and his battle for a place at the Etihad this season.

But those sort of challenges have only served to fire him up and he has risen to every moment just as he has with England this time.

Southgate has seen that at close quarters as England fans were not convinced about Sterling even after they reached the semi final in the 2018 World Cup but that began to change when he ended a three year goal drought in a famous win in Spain in October 2018.

The direction of travel has now well and truly changed.

Southgate added: “He was probably only one of the players to come back from the World Cup with a different feeling and I talked to him at length about that and I think Seville was a really lift-off moment for him.



Sterling has been in stunning form for England since the 2018 World Cup in RussiaSterling has been in stunning form for England since the 2018 World Cup in Russia
Sterling has been in stunning form for England since the 2018 World Cup in Russia

“You could almost see it. He almost jumped into the second tier of the stadium if you look at the celebration that night of his goal.

“I really feel this was a significant moment for him and of course, he had been scoring for his club but had not been able to translate that across.

“Now I think he feels happy in our environment, feels he can be himself, knows the respect we have for him and yes, his performance in every game this tournament, he has been a huge threat for every opponent.”





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