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Hodgson Attributes Sterling Struggles to Liverpool's Poor Start

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Roy Hodgson has found himself front and center for Liverpool supporters' ire in the past month, and his comments in the wake of England's 1-0 victory over Estonia aren't going to do much to help the situation.

Shaun Botterill

There's quite the little controversy brewing between Liverpool and Roy Hodgson; it kicked off when he was a terrible manager for the club, and then resumed back in September when news emerged that Hodgson and England's staff had disregarded Daniel Sturridge's request for an additional recovery day between matches, leading to a groin injury that's kept him out of Premier League action since the win over Spurs. So now with Raheem Sterling's form and fitness in question, Liverpool supporters are understandably jittery, and it's led to some pointed comments by both Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers.

In fairness to Hodgson, he has a job to do, however poorly he might be doing it, and that job isn't made any easier when club managers use their players to the verge of collapse. Sterling's been worked to dust by Rodgers in the past few weeks, playing 570 minutes across six matches (excluding stoppage time, etc.) in the span of three weeks. That's a ton by any standard, but for a 19-year-old who's often been the subject of hand-wringing about the need for patience and moderation, it's absurd. Doubly so when one of those doing most of the hand-wringing is the man who decided he'd play each of those 570-plus minutes.

But his international manager doesn't have a history of being particularly graceful either, and after England's 1-0 win over Estonia on Sunday evening--a match that saw Sterling left on the bench for the first 64 minutes--Hodgson compounded matters by theorizing that Liverpool are to blame for Sterling's physical and mental fatigue:

"In mitigation of a young player, he has broken into a team like Liverpool, had a fantastic season, gone to the World Cup, done well and been regarded as one of the few who lived up to his reputation. Then you come back and you're still only 19 years of age, there are a lot of other things that play a part in people's make up. It isn't quite as simple as the training you're doing maybe taking some juice from your legs. There is an awful lot going on in your head as well.

"Perhaps it's quite simply the season hasn't started quite as well for Liverpool as they wanted. He's a player who's always in the focus and spotlight for England and Liverpool, maybe that's had some effect. But I don't know, it's a theory."

On the one hand, yeah okay maybe, on the other hand, think about words before they come out of your mouth. He's not too far off from reality, and it's arguable that what he's saying is actually somewhat accurate. The season to this point--or, more accurately, after the point at which Hodgson disregarded Rodgers' and Sturridge's instruction for maintaining the striker's fitness--hasn't been up to par, and Sterling has been a large part of nearly everything good Liverpool have put together. With injuries leaving Rodgers shorthanded, the manager's turned to his young winger at every turn, and it's clearly started to have an impact.

Whether or not that impact is negative isn't for Roy Hodgson to decide, however, and for him to publicly "theorize" as much will only further the perception that he's not to be trusted with the care of Liverpool's players.