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Everything's Coming Up Sterling

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From the fringes to integral in Liverpool's title challenge, things have gone rather well for Raheem Sterling this season, and Glen Johnson believes he's become one of Liverpool's most important players.

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Alex Livesey

After turning in a man of the match performance against Tottenham that highlighted his ability to bully players much larger than him, Raheem Sterling finds himself being talked about as a lock for England's World Cup squad. On current form and with Theo Walcott injured, he's not far off being a lock to start. Any way you come at it, and with apologies to the five remaining Adnan Januzaj loyalists, he's been the best teenager in English football by some distance.

"He has been class," said Glen Johnson when asked about the young star who frequently plays on the right flank ahead of him. "When he first burst onto the scene, everyone could see how good he could be. I know he had a couple of months where he wasn't in the team as much as he would have liked, but I think he has bounced back better for that. At the moment, he's probably one of the first names on the teamsheet."

It's probably fair to say that while most Liverpool fans expected Sterling to be very, very good, they didn't expect him to be this good this soon. That he is now at least as much a star as potential superstar has played a massive role in Liverpool's strong second half of the season, one that sees the club with 11 wins, two draws, no losses, and a realistic shot at winning their first title of the Premier League era.

It's a new situation for Sterling and many of Liverpool's other young players, but there are a few veterans on the club who have found themselves in the thick of a title race before, including Johnson. The fullback has a winner's medal for his role in Chelsea's 2004-05 Premier League title, and he's doing his best to help Sterling and the rest keep calm as the matches tick away.

"The main thing for the young lads that haven't done it is to stay calm and probably try not to pay attention to it," he said. "Everyone outside will be lumping pressure on the club and individuals, but if we just take each game as it comes and keep doing what we're doing, the results and the league table position will take care of themselves."