Friday 15 December 2017

Sterling can shine bright for England -- Rodgers

Phil Medlicott

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers feels Raheem Sterling is fully deserving of a place in the senior England squad and is confident the 17-year-old will be well "looked after" if he receives another call-up.

Reports had suggested England boss Roy Hodgson was looking to retain Sterling for this month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland, after giving the winger his first taste of the senior set-up by bringing him in ahead of last month's 1-1 draw with Ukraine, a game for which he ended up being an unused substitute.

However, the fact that Sterling was yesterday named as part of the England U-21 squad for their double-header with Serbia would appear to suggest he will not figure in Hodgson's group this time.

Yet Rodgers has no doubt Sterling's performances for Liverpool this season have merited further involvement with the senior national squad, and has no concerns that if that does come about, he will not be handled the right way.

"I'm always one for young players. Raheem has been brilliant. He is a real good kid who has stepped into the team and done exceptionally well," said Rodgers, whose side face Udinese in the Europa League at Anfield tonight.

"So in terms of whether he deserves a place (in the senior England squad), then of course. In terms of his performance level, he has been outstanding.

"Thankfully we have an England manager who has many, many years of experience and a wonderful group of players, so if he did get called up, he would be looked after, I'm sure.

"I think with young players, we have seen so many times in this country top talents at 17 and 18 who have too much too young and pressure forced on to them too early.

"By the time they get to 21 or 22, everyone has forgotten about them. But Roy is a very experienced manager."

Sterling is one of a clutch of youngsters who have impressed for the Reds this season, with 19-year-old defender Andre Wisdom and 18-year-old forward Suso also catching the eye. There has been talk of the trio being rewarded with new contracts.

Rodgers said: "I always believe you have to earn it, but there is no doubt that these boys have done well.


"There have been discussions between the club and representatives, but it is at an early stage."

Someone who has certainly taken note of the emerging young stars at Liverpool is striker Luis Suarez.

"They are all really good players and they are at Liverpool for a reason," Suarez said. "The form that Raheem has been showing and Suso the other day -- they are showing us that they want to help the team.

"We so-called experienced players are always there to help them so let's hope that they continue to develop and don't just stand still but continue to prove exactly why they are at Liverpool.

"I think they realise that they have to learn things from the older players."

Liverpool have midfielder Jonjo Shelvey back available for this evening's game. Shelvey, who scored twice as a substitute in the Reds' Group A opener against Young Boys of Switzerland a fortnight ago, is serving a domestic suspension following his sending-off in the Premier League defeat to Manchester United, but is still able to play in European matches.

Joe Cole could make his first-team return after a hamstring injury, but the contest looks to have come too soon for Jose Enrique (knee), while Martin Kelly (knee) and Lucas Leiva (thigh) remain sidelined.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have confirmed they have appointed Ryland Morgans -- who previously worked at Rodgers' former club Swansea -- as their new head of fitness and conditioning.

Liverpool v Udinese,

Live, Setanta Sports 1, 8.05

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