Somewhere along the way this season, Raheem Sterling went from prospect to proven. Somewhere along the way he became a lock for England's World Cup squad and a likely starter for Roy Hodgson's side in Brazil. Somewhere along the way to his ascension up the Liverpool team sheet, it became easy to forget Sterling was still only 19 years old.
"I’m just working hard and anything can happen," said the young attacker when asked what he hopes to achieve at the World Cup. "I’m not going to say I’m going to do this amazing thing, but I’ll definitely go out on the pitch and give 100 per cent and hopefully what I try to do will come off and work. But I’m not going to put pressure on myself."
Playing as though he's not under pressure has been key to his growth. Too often, young and talented players feel as though they need to prove themselves—to do the spectacular—to secure their place, and it only ends up being counter-productive. They hold the ball too long in search of the perfect pass; try to do one trick too many; go for glory when there are better options.
Sterling has, for the most part at least, shown the confidence to do the right thing instead of trying to do the flashy thing. He's also shown himself to be a determined, hard working player at both ends of the pitch, something that increasingly appears a necessity for attackers in Brendan Rodgers' system, and this too could benefit England in the summer.
"It’s a World Cup and is every kid’s dream," he said. "If I get selected I’ll just go into the game as I have done in every game this season, purely to help my teammates. If anyone needs help then I'll track back and work as a team player. Going forward then I’ll try to do my best and create something for my team, so I won’t be fazed by anything."
Sterling and England play their first pre-World Cup friendly on Friday when they host Peru at Wembley.