10 Nov Southgate: Scoring Sterling is something special
Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling is finally ready to fulfil his potential for England after conquering a “psychological barrier” with his two goals in the victory over Spain.
The 23-year-old forward excelled as he scored twice to inspire last month’s impressive 3-2 victory, and since then has scored three in four for Manchester City, who this week awarded him a new contract until 2023.
Following four in 11 for club and country before then the only consistent criticism – his previous lack of goals – appears to have been convincingly overcome.
Southgate had long had unwavering faith in a player who had divided opinion throughout his three years without a goal in international football, and he is confident that in the coming fixtures with USA and Croatia perhaps his finest talent will truly thrive.
“That (against Spain) was a big psychological barrier overcome and he has continued that form with his club over the last few weeks,” said the England manager. “We are really looking forward to seeing him again next week.
“I am really pleased for him because he is in outstanding form. He had an outstanding performance against Southampton. We have got huge belief in him and that belief in his own game is coming now.
“We have been happy with his performances for a long time and the missing piece has been the goals; you can see what it meant to him in Seville to get the goals which he has been overdue with us.
“In any sport you’re at your best when you’re playing without thinking too much and that’s what he did.
“He got his chance and just hit it; he didn’t have an extra touch or wait an extra half-a-second or millisecond, he just hit things and that’s why he scored the goals he did. You want all players to be free of overthinking; that’s when they’re in a good place and a good flow.”
While Sterling will return to the England setup in so positive a frame of mind, Leicester’s Ben Chilwell does so having established himself in Southgate’s plans before being confronted with the tragic death of the club’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
His team-mate Harry Maguire misses out through injury, but Southgate has regardless resisted any desire to assist them with the grieving process.
“The first thing is to allow the club space,” he said. “There are some people at the club whom I know very well, both on the playing side and behind the scenes (chief executive Susan Whelan and director of football Jon Rudkin).
“I always think that the process of grieving and remembering is a very personal one. You are there to support if needed, but equally you have to give people the time and space to do those things.
“After that there is a chance to speak to one or two of them; as much as anything to comment on how brilliantly (Leicester) have dealt with it all.
“It’s a reminder that a football club is a focal point for the community, around many things.”