Brendan Rodgers urges caution over Raheem Sterling England call-up
BRENDAN RODGERS has urged caution over Raheem Sterling’s rapid rise with the teenage Liverpool winger in line for another England call-up.
Roy Hodgson is expected to name Sterling in his squad for the friendly against Sweden in Stockholm on Wednesday.
The 17-year-old, who only made his full Liverpool debut in August, was a surprise inclusion for England’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in September, and only made his under-21 debut for his country in last month’s dramatic UEFA U21 European Championship play-off tie against Serbia.
And while Rodgers has no fears Sterling can handle the glare of international football, he doesn’t want the youngster to suffer the burn-out that has claimed many other previously fledgling careers.
“I’ve said in the past you have to make sure the timeline for these youngsters is right,” said the Liverpool manager. “You don’t want them to have too much too young and suffer from over-exposure.
“But it’s hard to hold him back, isn’t it? It’s very difficult to hold him back.
“This is the dream for him. I’m sure he wants to play for his country, he has played through the age levels.
“I’ve always believed if you are good enough, it doesn’t matter how old you are. And it’s clear to see Raheem is one of the top young players in the country at the moment.
“I wouldn’t have any worries with him going to England. He’s in capable hands I’m sure, and he would have senior players around him.”
No Liverpool player has made more appearances this season than Sterling, who has become an integral first-team player following an outstanding full Premier League debut against Manchester City in August.
“If you look at how he has coped this season, he’s actually getting better every week,” says Rodgers.
“He’s played more games than anyone else. He’s impressed with his body work and strength, but his biggest thing is his courage.
“I’ve seen him grow from a young guy into a young man in these last three months, and it’s a great credit to him.
“He works hard every day and has a real challenge up against the senior players here. He embraces it. He is a real threat.
“In the next couple of years, he will add more goals to his game once he has that comfort of being a regular Premier League starter. His composure will come and he can add goals to the game.
“But he knows he needs to concentrate on his game and completely focus on his football, and if he does that he’s one of the top young players in the country.”
Sterling, along with Suso and Andre Wisdom, have come through the Academy ranks this season to become regulars, and Rodgers admits the time is approaching to take the trio out of the firing line.
“These are young players that are hopefully going to be around with us for a long time,” he says. “They are fit, fresh and want to do well.
“But if they have a run of games like we have had over the last six to eight weeks, if you are a young player coming into the team with the mental and physical demands of playing for a club of this stature, it can be difficult.
“I like to map out when youngsters are playing and not playing so it allows them time to prepare. These are challenges, not difficulties. But we are where we are.”