Sunday 25 February 2018

Brendan Rodgers urges fans to support Raheem Sterling

Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas in action with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling
Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas in action with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling

Chris Bascombe

Raheem Sterling is being ‘led by his representative’ and does not deserve to be barracked by his own supporters, according to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers says the criticism surrounding Sterling’s contract talks will not impact on whether he is selected to face Stoke City on Sunday.

 “My message to the supporters would be, look, this is a young boy who in my time as manager has given the football club everything,” said Rodgers.

“He was thrust into the team at 17 years of age. He was given that opportunity and he grabbed that opportunity. In the following period he has been exceptional for me. Of course he has had dips in form and performances but only because his standards are so high. He's a young man who has obviously passed on his career to other people and, unfortunately, whether people perceive it as right or wrong, he is being led by the representative.

“But the young boy I see on a daily basis and who I work with is still the same boy who wants to learn and I think the supporters will just continue to show what they always do, which is wonderful support for every player in the Liverpool shirt."

Rodgers says the idea of more players wanting a transfer is something all big clubs have to adjust to, not just Liverpool.

“The way the market is now, it doesn't matter whether it's Liverpool or at other clubs, people will want to move on," he said.

"You can be one of the biggest clubs in the world but that doesn't stop people from wanting to look elsewhere, if that is the case. You don't just see it at Liverpool, you see it at a number of the top clubs. The way of the players and the conditions have totally changed now.

"That's why Stevie Gerrard and guys like that are held in such esteem because it is very rare now to have that loyalty to a club. The game is different and you have to manage that as best as you possibly can. You have to do everything you can, whether financially or having a plan going forward, and if the player still wants to leave then you have to deal with that as best you can and keep the club going forward.”

On the comments by Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, and the cancellation of a meeting on the player’s future scheduled for Friday, Rodgers said it made sense to delay those conversations in the light of comments by the representative.

 “It’s very difficult to comment on what other people speak about,” he said.

“We’ve always been clear. Any discussions or meetings that take place will all be dealt with internally. We’re not going to publicise what we do. Just do it in house. Your preference is to keep everything behind closed doors. I can't speak for what other people say or do. Whatever conversation I have with a player will always remain that. I’m not going to tell you what was said in a private a conversation.

 “The concentration for myself is to improve Raheem as a football player. It’s simple. There’s two years left on his deal and I expect him to see those two years through.

“I don’t see Raheem being unhappy. Raheem’s representatives made it clear they wanted to speak at the end of the season. Our concentration is on the last game of the season and talks will continue over the summer. Raheem’s a young boy who has developed over the past two season and we hope that will continue.

“My relationship with him hasn’t been affected at all. I’ve given Raheem a chance to play for on of the biggest clubs in the world. What goes on with contracts, of course we want to resolve it, but for me it doesn’t change my approach to him. I still maintain he’s a good boy, a good kid, who has matured well over the last few years.”

Rodgers reiterated that Liverpool’s owners will retain their hardline stance on Sterling’s future.

 “I think the ownership have shown their strength in their time here,” he said.

“They took over a club in a difficult situation and have stablised the club and every opportunity when they’ve had to show that strength with the player or other elements they’ve done that. They will show that power and that strength again.”

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