Saturday 16 December 2017

Raheem Sterling credits revival to Pep Guardiola and turning his back on social media

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling

James Ducker

Raheem Sterling believes his decision to block out the boo-boys on social media and Pep Guardiola’s morale boosting summer telephone call have helped to revitalise his form this season.

The Manchester City winger has enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign, scoring twice and producing a series of enterprising displays after a difficult debut season when his struggles for club culminated in a dismal showing at the European Championship with England.

Sterling became a scapegoat for England’s failures and a target on social media but the 21-year-old says he has learned to ignore the abuse on Twitter and Instagram and has credited Guardiola, who rang the player in June to reassure him he was key to his plans, with helping to lift his confidence.

“I got a lot of criticism last year which I thought was a bit unfair because the two games last year where I made my mark were in the Champions League,” Sterling said of his displays against Sevilla and Borussia Mönchengladbach, who are City’s opponents in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

“I equalled my best scoring total last season [11 goals for City] and for me it was a massive learning step. Pep coming in was a massive help and for him to be on the phone to me before I even met him was a massive boost.

“He said he always liked my football and watched me at Liverpool. To hear stuff like that made me go away and think and come back and work harder than ever.

“I block that [social media abuse] out and simply play football. That’s it. I never listen to that. Before, every time you take a stroll, you’d be on your phone, on your app, being nosy to see what people are saying when you see your name. Now I don’t pay it any mind, I simply leave it alone.”

Sterling admits the abuse and criticism did get to him at times, when his confidence hit a low.

“It’s always good to be on a good run and have confidence in yourself,” he said. “At the same time, when you hear unfair criticism it does put you down a bit. People don’t recognise you or see how you’re willing to work hard, to do better for your country and club. At times it’s a little bit frustrating.”

Sterling has been bowled over by Guardiola but claims the onus is on the players to work hard. “He just makes it simple and tells you how it is, exactly what he wants from you, where he wants you on the pitch,” he said.

“The rest is down to you. There is not a much better feeling for a player than that - to make the game simple. To have someone like that, who has done it at the highest level, is a great bonus.”

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