The Raheem Sterling Saga


Nobody, and I mean nobody, clutches their pearls like the English media. That goes double when it's about the England men's soccer team, but it's never for the right reasons.

This week all the rage was about 19-year-old Raheem Sterling asking Roy Hodgson to sit out from training, admitting he was tired after England's 5-0 win over San Marino, a team that regularly features three times more shop workers than professional players.


How dare such a young man deny the England manager? He's a professional! He's playing for Queen and country and all things noble about England when he puts on the colors of the Three Lions against ...

... against Estonia.

There have been more inches from more out-of-breath former players dedicated to a player telling his coach he was tired than the actual game itself, which was by all means much more shocking.

For those who didn't see it, England couldn't beat Estonia without Sterling. Despite being a man up starting early in the second half, their attacks were largely toothless until Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on after the hour mark. England's first shot on target came with a few minutes remaining in the first half against the 81st-ranked team in the world.

The articles against a 19-year-old have been incredible. Take this one from Robbie Savage, for example. Savage says that Sterling belongs to a generation of mollycoddled players while he and the players of his day could play three games a week.


This isn't an argument that there's nothing to talk about with Sterling. There's plenty to talk about if you want to, but let's have a discussion that means something instead of one that serves no purpose other than to make retired players feel better about their days.

Let's talk about training regiments for different kinds of players, like the ones that Liverpool uses and the England team dismisses fully. Sterling saw fellow Liverpool player Daniel Sturridge injured for England in the first international break of the season because Hodgson ran his players as he saw fit. Who's got the more vested interest in the player, club or country? England's next game is in a month. Club teams have multiple games between now and then. These players come to play for their country as loaners from their clubs and just get treated however the national manager wants for a few days. I probably wouldn't be too comfortable either.

Alternatively, let's have a real discussion about a player who's tired and isn't feeling quite right. Is that not something you would want your players to do? Something not feeling right could be the start of something more serious and longer-lasting than an afternoon resting. It's not like an injury has ever stopped Hodgson from playing someone for a full 90 minutes right in the middle of a season, but the thought is nice.

Or, if you're really ambitious, let's talk about how Hodgson couldn't beat lowly Estonia without a 19-year-old.

How perilously balanced is England's team that it can't beat Estonia without Sterling? Maybe the goal could have come another way without him, but it's damning for Hodgson that it didn't. And over the course of the game, there was little change in both strategy and formation until the introductions of Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Nothing was working, and for an hour, Hodgson just stared at the problem and hoped it'd fix itself. When it didn't, his best answer was a teenager. A mollycoddled one.

The Sterling saga has effectively wallpapered over England's severe structural problem: Hodgson. He's never going to be a good enough manager for England, even though he's English. Yet there he is, partially thanks to his descent, having guided England to a quarterfinal defeat at the 2012 Euros, zero wins and a first-round exit in the 2014 World Cup, as well as England's lowest FIFA ranking since 1996 (20). But he'll get at least two more years on the job, at the very least another Euro tournament unless he fails to qualify, before he's fired.

And we're out here talking about practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *