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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Of Roy Hodgson’s Poor Media Skills and Raheem Sterling’s Risk of Burning Out Ala Michael Owen

Sterling explaining to Roy how he wants to play?
Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling has been hitting the headlines in the UK press at the back of England’s 1-0 win over Estonia in their 2016 European Championships qualifier. 

Sterling didn’t start the match with the Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson claiming the Liverpool midfielder asked to ‘sit out’ owing to fatigue. However, the 19-year-old was still called upon midway into the second half when he replaced Jordan Henderson to give the hitherto blunt England attack some pace and trickery in the final third. It wasn’t a surprise then when Sterling won a freekick outside the box barely ten minutes into the action which was drilled into the back of the Estonia net by Wayne Rooney.

That moment there emphasized the increasing importance of Sterling to the national team, his club Liverpool notwithstanding. However, when the dust seemed to be settling on the game, Roy Hodgson alleged that it was Sterling who asked to be rested, an unnecessary comment that once again exposed Hodgson’s poor management and naivety in front of the press.

The common rule in the book is always that you should protect your players and not hang them to dry especially not in front of the blaring cameras and desperate-for-a-slip-in-the-tongue group that is the English press. For all his managerial know-how boasting 38 years, and counting, the 67-year-old seemed alien to that when he told reporters that the decision to exclude Sterling from the starting lineup wasn’t a shrewd managerial move but that the youngster asked to be left out.

You simply cannot say that, unless you are out of sorts like Roy Hodgson of course. 

However, after all has been said though, Sterling is the proverbial grass that gets burned when two egomaniac bulls engage in a brawl. Granted, many pundits have made a mountain out of the molehill as Sterling finds himself stuck right inside a club and country row. 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been critical of how his players are handled while on national duty, and he is perhaps justified if the absence of Daniel Sturridge for the past six weeks is anything to go by. An indispensable member of the Liverpool squad, Sturridge sustained injury while playing for England, something that didn’t go down well with the Anfield hierarchy. His absence from the Liverpool set up has seen the Reds struggle to live up to expectations. They have struggled for goals, fast-paced attacking football, sharpness in front of goal, wizardry skill with the ball, all the qualities that define Daniel Sturridge.

A similar occurrence to Sterling and Liverpool could find themselves struggling even further hence the weighted concern from his manager. 

The Sterling case just raised the bar a bit higher but both managers should take the blame. Statistics indicate that the Jamaican-born star has played almost thrice as much football in the past year than he did the year before. That’s too fast a transition and too much football for a teenager. Add the fact that he loves playing his football with with explosive pace, the physical demand of the Premier League, the mental beating he got after Liverpool's almost-there title challenge, 15 games already in an infant season and the stress level Liverpool's new campaign has gotten and you see why the little boy might ask to be rested against a lowly club ranked 81st in the world, 63 places below England.

Liverpool don’t have to look no further than Michael Owen who burst into the scene as a 17-year-old. Owen was precocious, a fine goalscorer, a complete finisher. However, he was allowed to play too many games and by the time he got to 23, 24 years, injuries had plagued him. He never peaked at the age of 26-27 years when most players get to their prime. The same could be said of Robbie Fowler.

Roy Hodgson needs not to look any further than Jack Wilshere. The Arsenal midfielder played over 4000 minutes of competitive football before he turned 18, a huge mistake as after that, he was on the sidelines for a year. Sterling is clocking even more minutes and runs the risk of getting perma-crocked should his plight for a little rest continue making the likes of Hodgson parade him for criticism.

Ex Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher added his voice to the controversy saying; “I’ve mentioned it myself, that we’ve got to be careful with Raheem Sterling burning out. You think of players in the past – I played with two of the best young players you’ll ever see in Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. They had a lot of injuries when they got to 23, 24, and a lot of it comes from too much football.”

Carragher couldn't have hit a better nail on the head since in Michael Owen, Liverpool and England had arguably the most talented forward of his generation but due to too much football, he never lived up to his billing.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!