Arguments can be made for the standards of play on the pitch being of a higher standard and that the greater media interest and rise in social media bringing the fans closer to the game, much of which I agree with.
However, in my mind it is undeniable that money has sullied the game and affected everyone connected whether a player on the pitch or a fan sat at home in a number of ways. It is one of these ways that this article centres on with the focus landing squarely on the talented Mr. Sterling.
The promise in this young man has been evident from an early age resulting in a six figure sum being splashed out by Liverpool on a teenager without any first team experience. This in itself created a buzz from Reds fans, with his promise and claim for a first team run out further enamoured with a breathtaking goal-scoring display against Southend United in the FA Youth Cup. Fans were eventually treated to glimpses of the Jamaican born star towards the end of the 2011/12 season with a handful of substitute appearances that raised the spirits of the crowd during a dark time for the club.
So on the face of it an extremely promising start to his LFC career and in days gone by a player in such a position would see the forthcoming season as an opportunity to kick on and establish himself – and I am convinced this is how Sterling views the 2012/13 season. However, in today’s game, the talk emanating from the club and sections of supporters is that Sterling should be loaned out to gain first team experience before attempting to break on through to the first team. In my mind this is absolutely crazy for a number of different reasons and as the old adage goes: if you are good enough you are old enough. It is pretty clear that in my humble opinion Sterling is ready for the first team now and any weaning required can be done from our very own substitute bench and to support my view I want to first look historically and then look at the current day.
The opening paragraph of this article bemoaned the change in modern day football and I the fact that there is even the consideration of loaning out a talent such as Sterling shows this. We do not have to travel to far back in our metaphorical Delorean to see why.
Despite his current popularity being akin to an unsightly rash, it should never be forgotten what a player Michael Owen was for Liverpool. He was 18 when he made a goal-scoring debut for the first team, and in the following season went on to score 23 goals in 36 games. Our very own God was 18 in his debut season which saw a return of 18 goals in 34 appearances. Stevie, the epitome of Liverpool Football Club and the veritable living legend saw a first season in red of 13 appearances in the centre of midfield and on the right when he was 18. Steve Mcmanaman too was only 18 when he made the breakthrough.
This is where Sterling finds himself. A genuine exceptional talent that deserves patience and trust to come into the first team fold and develop. This in itself could save the club millions. Despite being bought into the youth setup he has come up through it and will have gained an understanding of the club and its history, which is a demanded attribute for any Liverpool player and something that comes with time, which Sterling has had.
Winding the clock forward to the present day and Liverpool in the Rodgers era. We have seen Raheem a couple of times in friendly games in the USA and for me he impressed. He showed a good work rate, the desire to track back and do the leg work when not in possession to get the ball back, and when in possession a very definite threat. These are all attributes that Rodgers demands in his players, and in the tika-taka style that is being installed, Sterling fits right in.
Glancing across at Swansea and how they approached the game under Rodgers comparisons can easily be made with Nathan Dyer. Dyer is a winger of a similar size and stature to Sterling and was an integral part of how Swansea set up. He frightened teams with the football at his feet with his pace and skill and off the ball worked hard to track back and regain possession. Dyer is 24 and arguably at his level, but Sterling carries a similar skill set but is only 17. With Rodgers skill in bringing players on and getting the best from them the sky is the limit for Sterling; why risk sending him out on loan, unsettling his personal life and exposing him to another’s coaching methods and style?
There is a long term plan in place with Rodgers at the helm, Sterling, and others, will benefit from the continuity and familiarity during these important years of their career.
It’s clear I want Sterling to stay and be given a chance rather than be loaned out, would love your opinion on here or on twitter @timdibs