Belfast Telegraph

Reds starlet puts reputation down to taking a chance

By Tim Rich

Football has many mysteries but perhaps the greatest is why any player with any kind of public profile would have a Twitter account.

Steven Gerrard has never felt the need for one, probably because of the opportunity it offers for the internet's faceless voyeurs to bait him from the safety of their bedroom.

Tom Cleverley's attempt at a Twitter question-and-answer session on his arrival at Aston Villa turned into a torrent of invective. Raheem Sterling feels somewhat differently.

"Why do I have Twitter? Because I am 19 years of age and I need something to get away from football and have a laugh and joke with my friends," he said, utterly bemused by the question.

"You scroll past the provocative messages if they come in. You can have thousands of tags each day but I try to comment only on the ones that are positive or make decent jokes."

This week the @sterling31 account detailed his trip to Aintree to launch the new Sims 4 game. On Monday night there would have been plenty of positive messages on it as the Liverpool forward returned to Merseyside from Basel.

England's route to the European Championship finals is hardly barred by Alpine peaks but Monday's 2-0 win over Switzerland was perhaps their best performance under Roy Hodgson; sharp, incisive and delivered by a young, vibrant team.

"I thought it was a great step forward," he said.

"The build-up to that game was different to any of the other times. Everyone chipped in if they had something to say and you could see we had a game plan and that it worked."

Sterling did not think he played well at St Jakob Park and, strangely for a forward who gave Liverpool's title challenge a glittering edge, he confesses to lacking confidence in his ability.

On the way to games, his strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, watches footage of himself scoring, just to give himself that little extra mental sharpness. Sterling stares out of the window.

"I don't think I am the most confident person," he reflected.

"But I have people around me who, while they don't say I am the greatest thing in football, have a general belief in me.

"I am not the type of player to have an ego or big myself up so it's good to have people around you who can give you motivation and confidence."

Twelve months ago, Sterling was struggling to make Liverpool's starting line-up.

Towards the end of his first full season at Anfield, his manager, Brendan Rodgers had talked of the teenager's lack of focus and burnout and this seemed to be part of the same pattern.

"It made me sit down and reflect on what I needed to do if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be," said Sterling.

"A better goals-to-game ratio is the aim for me now. If you score goals, you will get people talking about you.

"When I was out of the team, I sat down with my agent (Aidy Ward) and we did some video analysis of the best games I'd played in for the youth teams and at reserve and first-team level. It was about seeing what I did then and what I did when I was out of the team.

"When I got the ball in the reserves, within two touches I would turn and look to attack my opponent, whereas in the first team I was trying for the safer option. I needed to go back to basics. I needed to get defenders on the back foot again."

Part of the process involved Sterling moving to Southport, which like Formby further down the coast, has become a colony for Merseyside footballers.

"I have tried to block everything out," he said.

"I am still going to see my friends on days off but I have tried to just live, sleep and eat football as the manager has told me to do.

"Going into training, coming home, going back into training – that's been it for me over the last 12 months. I have had to make sacrifices and that has been a huge step forward."

For someone who did not start playing football seriously until he was 10, five years after he arrived in London from Jamaica with his mother, Sterling's rise has been astonishingly swift.

"My mum got me into a Sunday League team but it was only when I was 14 playing for the under-16s at Queens Park Rangers that I realised it could be a dream for me."

Within three years he was playing in the Premier League for Liverpool, within five he was at a World Cup.

"That's football for you," said Sterling. "It changes within seconds."

Raheem Sterling's a 'Playful Creative' according to The Sims 4 personality test. What's your Sims 4 personality? Take the test and buy your copy of the game now at TheSims.com

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