As they've sporadically but all-too-regularly broken, I've greeted the negative stories involving Raheem Sterling with a cynical shrug or a world-weary sigh. Bloody young footballers think they're immune to blah blah blah -- that type of reaction. I'm a man of a certain age, you see, and I'm therefore biologically pre-programmed to be disproportionately querulous about everything. No doubt the unpleasant nature of the allegations levelled at Sterling caused me to subconsciously judge the youngster in a harsher light. They certainly led to far more acerbic barbs from me about his tonsorial atrocities than were strictly necessary.
As a gent of a similar vintage to myself, Brendan Rodgers has no doubt been driven to high levels of irascibility by young Raheem. Who can forget the buttock-clenchingly awkward dressing-down administered to the England man by Rodgers which was caught by the Being: Liverpool cameras? As a teacher of teenagers myself, I was cringing at the idea of the new guy having his boundaries tested by the impish class loudmouth. I think Brendan did well, as it goes. He was forthright and firm. If that had been me, however, Sterling would have been spoken to in a quieter but altogether more minatory fashion. I'm a cantankerous old curmudgeon, I fear, with no tolerance for bad manners. I blame my old man. Oh, hello Dr. Freud, have a seat, I'll be with you presently.
The Raheem Sterling we've seen thus far in the current campaign has been but a pale shadow of the whirling dervish that tore through opposition defences at the start of last season. It would be fair to say that the youngster, still only eighteen lest we forget, has seemed restrained and far less forceful and dynamic. He has been playing like a young man burdened by a troubled mind.
Only last week, in Liverpool Crown Court, Sterling was involved in a case in which he had been accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, nineteen year old model Shana Ann Rose Halliday. The young forward denied common assault and was able to walk free when the case against him collapsed. Having escaped any further action against him in that case, Sterling must now face a separate legal action after twice failing to appear in court to face charges for minor traffic offences. He is a messy and chaotic young man, whose eyes have clearly slipped from the prize of playing at the highest level.
Brendan Rodgers is now faced with the task of getting the precocious winger back on track. Simply put, Liverpool need him, and the manager is direct and yet supportive in his observations on what the future may look like for Raheem Sterling.
"Raheem needs to have a clear mind in everything in his life -- he needs to stabilise his life," insisted the Northern Irishman. "We mustn't forget he is eighteen but he has to understand the remarkable opportunity he has at one of the biggest clubs in the world and focus everything in on his career. Once he does that and he is clear in his mind, he has no distraction and we can get the level of performance of the first four or five months of last season. He is a good boy and had lots going on last year when he was put in the spotlight and he did well, but now it's about him focusing on his football."
As usual, Rodgers' words are measured and deliberate. He is clearly supporting the youngster and equally clearly highlighting that Sterling has allowed his professionalism and dedication to slide. The talented forward has the potential to be amongst the game's very best, blessed as he is with a surfeit of pace, the capacity to beat a defender and an eye for goal. Where he goes from here is a matter for Raheem Sterling to decide. He will not want for good advice and exceptional role-models at Anfield. Let us hope that he is inclined to regain that "focus" Rodgers mentioned and "steady" the ship he's sailed into choppy and deleterious waters. I should apologise for that joke but in the spirit of the aforementioned cantankerousness, I won't. Have a good weekend folks.