Acting is a wilfully bizarre and insecure way to provide oneself with food, shelter and mental serenity. A notoriously unstable profession, it requires a mixture of an almost onanistic self-regard, a Trojan work ethic and a healthy smattering of serendipity. Your scribbler was once reliant on playing Shakespearean villains and voicing cartoons in Gaelic as a means of preventing the arrival of the bailiffs. These days, the comparative stability of a day job allows the occasional foray back into independent film but it is a compromised and all-too-rare effort. I often upbraid myself for lacking the dedication and unadulterated solipsism that was required to make it work back in the day but alas, I grew tired of tuna sandwiches on stale bread, gruff provincial landlords raising the rent on sordid hovels, directors who couldn't find a neon exit sign if they were standing below it and actors. Mostly, I got tired of actors.
When Raheem Sterling spoke of the "roles" he has played of late, the obvious correlation with acting sprung to mind. My heroes, masters of their craft like Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and contemporaries with the potential to attain greatness, like Tom Hardy, all have one unifying characteristic -- the bravery to try something challenging, to change utterly and still carry the day. The comparison with footballers is particularly apposite when one considers the requirements demanded by Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. For him, the ideal footballer is one that can turn his hand with aplomb to a plethora of on-pitch roles. Like Emre Can or Lazar Markovic, the prototypical Rodgers Player will have that innate ability to excel in different areas of the pitch. It is an undeniably sound philosophy as it maximises the effectiveness of any given squad when a large proportion of the cohort can function effectively in multiple positions.
This season, when the Redmen should have been building on the magnificence of the previous campaign, they have instead been assailed with a most unfortunate amalgam of injuries and lack of form. The result has been that Raheem Sterling, the most potent attacking threat on the club's books in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, has been shuffled about by his manager in an effort to find where best his abundant talent can serve the team. In an ideal world, Sterling would have continued his development in the same attack that donned the red last season. In a compromised world, he'd have learned his trade alongside Daniel Sturridge this season. However, in the unpalatable harshness of the real world, he has been asked to compensate for the absence of his dancing mate as well as the lamentably poor form of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert.
Thankfully, like Marlon and Al, Raheem has range. This young man is a phenomenon and potentially the greatest of all the most recent Redmen. Whether slaloming through opposition defences, backside protruding and dino-arms akimbo, burning the paciest of defenders as he leaves them in his slipstream or finishing with the adroit poise of a veteran poacher, Sterling is a footballing force of nature whose presence in the team Liverpool fans should savour. For all we may gripe and inveigh against the perceived mistakes of the manager, it is to his credit that he has always shown such faith in the diminutive attacker and it is fair to say that Sterling has repaid that trust in spades. After a few initial scares about his attitudinal discipline, the England man has matured refreshingly and has a pleasingly humble view of his progress thus far. He is quick to acknowledge the contribution others have made to his progression and more than content to continue in the central role Rodgers has currently assigned him.
"It's a role that I am learning and adapting to," Sterling averred. "But if you want to be a good player, it is something you've got to do, you've got to adapt and play in different positions. I want to learn as much as I can, and I'm enjoying it at the moment. It's good for me. I have personal goals, but I don't want to share them in case I don't reach them. I always set myself goals and standards that I want to meet, and this season is no different.
"When I get in front of goal, sometimes I can get a bit excited thinking I've done it all" he admitted. "But I just have to keep focused, and work hard to try to take my game to the next level by getting more goals and assists I don't know about a target man role but I like to get on the ball as much as possible. As long as it is not too high in the air I will try to fight for the ball. It is good to play with players like Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, who get on the ball and try to create stuff. It is always a joy to be running in and being on the receiving end and trying to finish their great play."
In Raheem Sterling Liverpool are possessed of the rarest of talents, a player with the ability, pace and attitude to succeed in any position, to play any role. With a supporting cast bolstered by the impressive likes of Can, Markovic, Lallana and Coutinho, Brendan Rodgers can be justifiably optimistic about the awards seasons to come. Should Daniel Sturridge return to share top-billing with his England colleague, then there will be lines around the block to see the resultant magic.