Sensational Sterling Penciled in for the Top, England Debut

Clive Brunskill

At only 17 years of age, Raheem Sterling has already found himself turned into something of a potential saviour by some fans and members of the media. Following his first senior goal and with an England debut on the horizon, it's time to ratchet the hype up another notch.

Before Saturday, it felt as though one couldn't read an article or see or hear a piece of commentary concerning Liverpool without having Raheem Sterling's name pop up. On one hand it would be hard to say it wasn't deserved—the young, exciting winger has, after all, certainly made a positive impression since being thrown into the mix by Brendan Rodgers.

The praise, however, has at times seemed dangerously hyperbolic, fans and the media transfixed by the latest shiny bauble and eager to build Sterling up until he's been fashioned into some kind of saviour for both club and country while he's still not old enough to vote—or until he crumbles from the pressure, which would of course be just as good for the back pages and call-in shows as if he managed to live up to the hype.

It's hardly a surprise, then, that following his first senior goal for Liverpool over the weekend, talk of Sterling's impending greatness has found itself ratcheted up yet another notch.

"I think Raheem has been a great surprise to everyone," said Steven Gerrard when asked by the Liverpool Echo about the winger's first goal. "Not that he’s doing so well at this level—as we always knew he was going to be good enough to play for the first team—but I don’t think anyone expected him to break through so early.

"When they are young and small sometimes they get eased in towards the end of a season to give them a taste, but the new manager has come in, seen what he’s done in pre-season and said ‘yeah, he’s ready now’. He’s given him his chance and Raheem’s not let anyone down. He’s been sensational so far.

"We all know he’s exciting, that he can run at players and if he gets in one on one situations he’s deadly. If he can add goals and assists to his game as he grows then he can go all the way to the top."

Elsewhere, with World Cup qualifying on hold until the new year, November's international break—an awkward mid-week affair that for Liverpool is sandwiched between a trip to Chelsea on the Sunday three days before and hosting Wigan at Anfield three days later—sees England make the trip to face Sweden in a match that doesn't matter.

And for Roy Hodgson, despite earlier promising that Sterling wouldn't be rushed into the senior picture for his country, the young winger finds himself already penciled in for the trip to Stockholm.

"I will use the November game in Sweden to look at a few players and Sterling is one," said Hodgson. "We allowed him to go with the U21s last time when we might well have taken him into our squad had they not had such an important game."

With England's manager setting him up for his senior international debut a month ahead of the fact and his club captain talking of him going "all the way to the top," the already glowing praise for Sterling—still only 17 years of age and the club's second youngest scorer following Michael Owen, whose own career burnt bright but short—really has never been higher. No pressure or anything, kid.

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