A Sterling Stick To Use On Hodgson...

It's very, very easy to write a column saying that the latest Bright Young Thing should start for England...but thankfully England have a manager and not an X Factor-style vote...

Last Updated: 04/06/14 at 10:18 Post Comment

Latest Articles

United Can't Rely On Force Of Personality Alone


With only two weeks to go until the start of the season, Man United still have plenty of work to do in the transfer market. It seems the enormity of the task is dawning on Van Gaal...

Saints Alive Despite Death Knells...


An awful lot of cash has been thrown in Southampton's direction for a collection of players with itchy feet who took them into mid-table. This is not a crisis; it's excellent business...

All Articles

In March, the Daily Mail's Martin Samuel - never a man shy to state his case against all manner of straw men and 'mistakes' yet to be made - decried the lack of wingers in the England World Cup squad that would not be named for another two months. He screamed for more 'crackerjack wide players', for Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Adam Lallana, Adam Johnson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be on the plane to Brazil.

'One minute we bemoan the lack of talent, the next we haven't got room for it all. Make your minds up, gentlemen,' he wrote. We're unsure which anonymous 'gentlemen' he was addressing but presumably he's fuming that Johnson - rather good for five minutes at the turn of the year - was left behind. He should be pleased that Sterling, Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain did make the final 23-man squad but instead he's angry again...

'Raheem Sterling needs to start, Roy...England have a long-standing mistrust of talent that needs to end in Brazil,' was the headline on Monday's column, which fumes at the fact that the useful but uninspiring James Milner was brought on ahead of Sterling against Peru on Friday night. That will be Milner (45 caps) brought on ahead of Sterling (two caps) - a point Samuel uses to illustrate England's innate distrust of fancy players, via a whistlestop tour of Matt Le Tissier, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Tony Currie and Peter Osgood.

What Samuel - and anyone else clamouring for the very talented but ultimately inexperienced Sterling to leapfrog Milner and Danny Welbeck - fails to recognise is that the Liverpool winger is just 19 and has already been fast-tracked into the senior set-up. Milner and Welbeck were not England internationals at 19; the fact that Sterling is there at all is an acknowledgement that he has a talent that far outweighs his rivals. The question is not whether he will become a better player than either of those hard-working but limited players, but whether he is a better option right now in what would easily be the biggest game of his career against Italy in Manaus.

It's incredibly easy to shout for the inclusion of an in-form player - especially when he plays for a club with a large and vociferous fanbase - and it's even easier when the alternatives appear to be so stodgy. There aren't many putting their hands up and pointing out that Welbeck had an incredibly similar strike rate to Sterling this season (nine goals from 45/46 shots) and was excellent against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, while Milner probably has even fewer people in his corner despite two Premier League titles in the last three seasons.

Having been robbed of one 'conservative' beating stick by Hodgson's brave and balanced squad selection (conservative would have been to include Ashley Cole, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe), the next stick in hand is his reluctance to play the season's in-form XI, with no regard to performances in training, mental aptitude, experience or specific gameplans for specific opponents. Sod all that stuff, just play the kid who looks exciting - it's the easiest column to write as we approach a major tournament.

Sterling will start against Ecuador on Wednesday, could well be ruddy marvellous, but still find himself on the bench against Honduras on Saturday and Italy a week later. Hands will be thrown up in the air and we will wonder whether the same hands were thrown in the air 16 years ago when the precociously talented 18-year-old Michael Owen was left out of the starting line-up as England began their World Cup campaign in France.

Two games and two lively substitute appearances later, Owen - now acclimatised to tournament football - came into the England side, along with the similarly untested David Beckham. The England manager that year was Glenn Hoddle, now regularly wheeled out as one of the great sages of the game and a potential saviour of English football. He saved Owen until he was sure he was ready, initially using his pace as an 'option off the bench', a phrase decried by Samuel this week.

Hodgson may well decide to start Sterling against Italy - after all, he threw in the similarly youthful Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain two years ago - but should he choose the diligent Welbeck instead, it will be a decision based on rather more than 'who is the better player?' It's why we have a manager and don't choose the England team by public vote.

Sarah Winterburn

rochdalerhy I am more than relatively certain that ANY player wouldn't tell you that ANY game in the world cup is bigger than a potential title decider. Some will, some won't. To say a group stage of the world cup is easily bigger than those Liverpool games is a nonsense. Debatable point for some but never in a million years easily bigger
- mrwxyz

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments


lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'


e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on


urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Transfer news: Gus Poyet confirms Sunderland talks with Liverpool striker Fabio Borini

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has indicated a move for Fabio Borini could still be on after confirming talks with Liverpool.

Transfer news: Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin hands in transfer request

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has handed in a transfer request, according to Sky sources.

Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has hinted that it will take time for him to be successful at Old Trafford, claiming he may struggle for the first three months...

Mail Box

Mails Come From A Land Down Under

We have an example of league-owned clubs from Australia while Kiwi boys want more respect for refs. Plus, Van Gaal won't stick with 3-5-2 and worried if Koeman will cut it...

Youth Development Has To Be The Future

A varied Mailbox has thoughts on transfer targets, youth development, the obsession over 3-5-2, some innovative Blackpool suggestions and why Real bought Kroos...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property