Raheem Sterling’s testing first season at Manchester City has been a “massive learning curve”, making him mentally stronger and all the more determined to make his mark with England this summer.
An ugly transfer saga ended last July as the 21-year-old became the most expensive Englishman ever in swapping Liverpool for the Etihad Stadium.
The £49million price tag appears to have weighed heavy on Sterling, though, as he managed just 23 league starts for City, with a groin injury resulting in him missing a chunk of the season finale.
The winger found that more frustrating than the season as a whole, although he feels a better player for his campaign in Manchester. He was excellent in England’s win over Australia on Friday night.
“It was frustrating when the injury kicked in and frustrating getting back into the team,” Sterling said.
“But that’s what happens when you’ve got top players around you, you’ve got to work to get back into the team.
“There was not one point I was worried and I was really looking forward to coming away with England and hopefully book a place on the way to France.
“I’ve learned quite a bit going into City for my first year. It was a massive learning curve and I’ll definitely take that into next season.
“I think I’m improving, yeah, definitely. I haven’t scored as many goals or assisted as many goals as I’ve wanted to, but I’m definitely improving mentally.
“That’s the most important thing for me – my mentality to not really listen to outsiders and to just concentrate on myself and be myself and express myself.”
Among those commenting on Sterling is fellow Jamaica-born dribbler John Barnes, who believes he has more of a chance of doing well for England than City right now.
The Londoner certainly has Hodgson’s trust and the Three Lions manager wants him to show his array of skills at Euro 2016.
“It’s really a positive when the manager tells you every time you get the ball that he wants you to go forwards,” Sterling said. “I’m most definitely enjoying my football.
“It’s really good. Every training session if I don’t go forward the manager kind of has a dig at me so that’s something I’m relishing and something I really enjoy.
“When someone really pushes you to want to go forward and play.”
Hodgson knows Sterling better than most and the winger hopes to help the England manager make amends for the World Cup two years ago, when they returned home from Brazil without so much as a win to their name.
“It’s not to say we’re being naive, but we’re going into the tournament to do well, not just to participate but to really try to challenge for it,” he said.
“We just need to definitely listen to the manager and try to take heed because some of his tactics and formations we have played over the last few of years have really worked for us.”
The City winger started through the middle as England beat Australia 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Friday, linking up well with debutant Marcus Rashford.
Only Sterling was handed his international chance by Hodgson at a younger age and the City man was understandably impressed by the goalscoring 18-year-old debutant.
“From what I’ve seen, I’m really impressed with his finishing,” he said. “He makes his decisions early, so a real bonus playing today and scoring.
“He’s a quality finisher and it was a good debut and hopefully long may it continue. I’m really looking forward to playing and working with him over the years.”