Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling reaps the rewards of Brendan Rodgers' on-camera dressing down
Raheem Sterling’s euphoria following an enterprising performance against Manchester City may have been punctured by the documentary team following Liverpool.
Fox – who are making the TV series on the Anfield club – decided to release a sneak preview of the forthcoming fly-on-the-wall programmes in which 17-year-old Sterling receives a barracking from manager Brendan Rodgers.
The clip shows one of Rodgers’ first Liverpool training sessions, from pre-season in Boston, in which he is seen warning the youngster “he will be on the first flight home” if he does not listen to instructions.
Although it is a riveting insight into Rodgers’ management style and presents the coach in a positive, authoritative way, the timing of the preview and context of its release was harsh on Sterling on a defining day in his fledgling career, particularly as his manager has stated how the youngster’s response in training earned him a starting role.
In stark contrast to the image presented in the clip, which was filmed over a month ago, Rodgers says Sterling’s attitude and talent are as encouraging as any teenager he has worked with.
“I have seen a lot of development in him in a short time,” said Rodgers. “He takes on a lot of the concepts and he is very good with instructions. Normally wingers want to do their own thing but he is tactically improving every day. I said when I first came in, I wouldn’t judge people on their status, on what they are or what they have done, but on what I see in front of me.
“He is a young player who has just improved every single day since I came in here. He was a player that played on his own in the one-v-ones.
“For a 17 year-old playing against the champions, I thought his performance was fantastic. I am certain over the next few years that he will develop into a very good footballer. We just have to make sure that we keep the pressure off him.
“One of the things that I think I have specialised in is the management of top young players. He is certainly up in that bracket. I look at players like Scott Sinclair and boys of that ilk. He is certainly up there. Maybe more advanced at that age.
“The great thing is that his attitude is wonderful. He is really focused. He comes in and he works well. He produces and he is effective on the pitch.”
Sterling has had to bide his time to make his Anfield breakthrough. He was signed from Queens Park Rangers two years ago for an initial fee of £600,000 although this could rise to as much as £5 million depending on first-team appearances.
He was put through his paces in the Liverpool Academy and earned rave reviews for a string of outstanding performances, leading to selection by England at both under-16 and under-17 levels.
The fact he was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in Wembley has inevitably prompted comparisons with Anfield legend John Barnes and Sterling’s form during Liverpool’s pre-season tour of North America and his confident display against Manchester City have shown such expectations might not be fanciful.
He was preferred on the left wing on Sunday to the more experienced Stewart Downing, with his manager suggesting the lack of financial resources at the club prompted him to give the youngster his chance sooner than expected.
“Young players will run through a barbed wire fence for you,” said Rodgers. “Older players will look for the hole or just turn back and not even go through it. But you get that freshness from Raheem. I like exciting players as well and he is a boy that excites you.
“This might be a good opportunity for them. Because we don’t have the money that some of our rivals have, I want to make the philosophy through the club that allows us to bring players from the academy into the first team. We want to develop what this club has had for many years and develop top young players.”
Liverpool fear midfielder Lucas will be out for several weeks with a thigh strain sustained on Sunday.
Four teenage talents
Ross Barkley (Everton, midfielder, 18)
A product of the Everton youth system, hailed as the new Wayne Rooney. Has represented England from Under-16 to Under-21 level.
Kerim Frei (Fulham, midfielder, 18)
Born in Austria to a Turkish father and Moroccan mother and raised in Switzerland. Made his first team debut in July 2011 i.
Romelu Lukaku (West Brom on loan from Chelsea, striker, 19)
Moved from Anderlecht to Chelsea for an initial fee of £13 million. On loan at West Brom scoring in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal, winger, 19)
Came through ranks at Southampton and chose Arsenal as the club best suited to help his football education. Carrying weight of expectation following departure of Robin van Persie.
By Chris Bascombe Telegraph.co.uk