'He can be a star of the tournament' - Paul Ince identifies the England player ready to take the World Cup by storm
Paul Ince has told Independent.ie that England can emerge as dark horses to enjoy an extended run in this summer's World Cup finals, if Raheem Sterling can deliver on his potential in Russia this summer.
Sterling has been pinpointed as England's potential match-winner after he played a key role in Manchester City's dominant Premier League title success over the last few months, with Paddy Power ambassador Ince convinced the 23-year-old can emerge as a star at the World Cup if he takes his chances in front of goal.
"He can be the major weapon for England at this World Cup," Ince told us. "He gives us something different. He is the only player who can beat a man, can frighten the opposition and you need that X Factor to make an impact in a tournament.
"We had it with Paul Gascoigne at the Euro 96 finals, when we so nearly won the competition, and with Michael Owen in 1998. That spark is vital to any team and Sterling needs to provide it for England this summer.
"Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli could be useful for England, but I look at what Sterling can offer and he can give teams a lot of problems."
Sterling fired an impressive total of 18 Premier League goals for Manchester City in their title victory this season, but Ince suggests the winger needs to show a more clinical touch in front of goal if England are to challenge the top teams in the latter stages of the World Cup.
"He scored a few good goals at City last season, but a lot of those were tap ins at the far post. That is a good thing for a winger, but I see him going through on goal at times and he lacks the killing touch you need in front of goal," continued Ince.
"One area he needs to work on is his finishing and when he is away with England, I would encourage him to talk to Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy and tap into their knowledge of what to do in front of goal. He gets himself into so many great positions, but his decision making when a chance comes his way can leave a lot to be desired.
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"The further you go in the tournament, the less chances England will create in front of goal. He may only get one chance against Germany, once chance against Brazil and he has to take it."
While Ince is a big admirer of Sterling's abilities on the field, has is highly critical of the winger's decision to get a tattoo of a machine gun on his leg, in what he described as a tribute to his late father.
"There were other ways of honouring your Dad than getting a gun tattoo and if I was his manager or his agent, I'd tell him to get it off as quickly as possible. It's ridiculous," added Ince.
"Why put that on your leg and leave yourself open to the criticism that has come his way? He has created problems for himself there and it was a bad error of judgement in my view.
"What he has to do now is go to the World Cup and put in performances that will make sure people forget about all this nonsense away from football because there is no doubt that Raheem can be a star of this tournament."
Paul Ince is an ambassador for Paddy Power and will be a guest on Paddy's Boat Party which will be broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the World Cup. Watch the first episode on June 13th at 6pm.