Monday 19 August 2019

'The Irish Liverpool boo boys didn't bother me' - Raheem Sterling on his Aviva abuse

Ireland's Robbie Brady in action with England's Raheem Sterling
Ireland's Robbie Brady in action with England's Raheem Sterling

Paul Hirst

Raheem Sterling has said the boo boys don't bother him one bit and that his success so far this season with Manchester City has vindicated his decision to leave Liverpool.

Twelve months ago, the 20-year-old was public enemy number one in the eyes of many football fans.

Mocked for apparently being too tired to start for England in Estonia and criticised for rejecting a £100,000 a week contract offer at Liverpool, Sterling was not a popular man in many parts.

The bad feeling towards him continued as contract talks continued to drag on and in June he was booed by the Liverpool-supporting home contingent in England's dour 0-0 draw in Dublin.

Fast-forward five months, and it certainly safe to say that Manchester City's £49million summer signing is in a much happier place.

"I thought (the move to City) at the time was right for me and my heart was saying that is what I should do. That is what I have done and I have no regrets," Sterling said.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring their first goal
Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers Livepic

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"Liverpool and Manchester City are both big football clubs and I am just happy to be where I am - and I am happy with my development at this moment in time."

Sterling's journey to happiness has not been an easy one, he accepts.

The Londoner refused to watch TV or read what was being said about him online at times because he did not want to be affected by the criticism.

"It was difficult with all the negativity around you," he said. "No one likes to hear the negatives, you want to hear positives all the time.

"I tried to spend time with my daughter and mum and make the day go like that. I tried to not read into it too much.

"My family helped me get through it and now I am just really happy where I am.

"They (the Irish who heckled him) were entitled to their opinion and my opinion was that I thought it was time for me to move on."

The negativity really started to gather momentum when Roy Hodgson said after England's 1-0 qualifying win in Tallinn last October that Sterling had approached him to complain that he was "tired" and "not in my best form".

Hodgson left the youngster out of his starting XI. The fact that Sterling won the free-kick that led to England's winner was quickly forgotten when Hodgson's post-match quotes appeared online.

One particularly fierce critic set up a parody Twitter account called @tiredsterling and mocked the forward at great length.

"It was made into much more of a big deal than it actually was," Sterling said when asked about Hodgson's comments.

"It was like any other chat which me and him have had as a player and a manager.

"He asked me a genuine question, I answered, told him exactly how I felt and it was his choice to take me out of the squad, or the team. I didn't say at any point that I didn't want to play.

"The manager has the choice to change the team or keep the team the same. With me, expressing myself and saying how I felt obviously changed his mind."

Sterling still has a good relationship with Hodgson, who took him to one side and offered him words of support in light of the booing in Dublin.

Hodgson has so much faith in Sterling that he said in September that he could go on to win 100 caps and the player himself is sure he can join that exclusive club which currently contains just nine players.

"I want to do my best for my country and hopefully be up there with some of the players who have played and try to achieve 100 caps in the future," he said.

"I've got 18 now so hopefully if I keep working hard and do well for my club then I can be picked for a few more squads.

"It's a long time away but that (100 caps) is definitely my ambition towards the end of my career."

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