England manager Gareth Southgate has heaped praise on Raheem Sterling for his excellent goalscoring form in an England shirt.
Sterling proved to be England’s standout attacker during Euro 2020, announcing himself as Southgate’s most reliable goalscorer in decisive moments.
During this summer tournament all of his three goals were influential for England, including winning goals to gain three points against the Czech Republic and Croatia in the group stages and the opener that set the Three Lions on their way to victory against Germany.
The Kingston-born forward has not always had it so easy in an England shirt, with pressure rising following a World Cup in 2018 where he failed to find the back of the net. Despite always offering an unselfish desire to run in behind and stretch the opposition defence, Sterling came under fire for his profligacy in front of goal.
However, since the World Cup in Russia, Sterling has found his shooting boots for his national team, scoring 16 goals in the 24 games. For context, he had only found the net twice in his first 45 games for his country.
This extraordinary upturn in form has been praised by Southgate, who, despite the City forwards’ struggles in front of goal in Russia, stuck with him throughout the tournament due to his commitment to work hard for benefit of the team.
“He is a top player, and he has got the hunger, not only to play well and perform well for the team but to score goals,” Southgate started. “That progression in the last couple of years has added so much.”
“I can’t speak highly enough of how he has been with us, in the last three years in particular. We have always had faith in him, but that has been easy in the last few years because of the numbers he has hit.”
Undoubtedly, Pep Guardiola is one of the biggest reasons behind Sterling’s development into a consistent goalscorer at the highest level. Throughout the Premier League era, there has hardly been a more significant boost in production than there has been with Sterling since Guardiola’s second season at the Etihad.
Sterling arrived at Eastlands as a winger acclaimed for his bravery in taking players on and devastating pace. Now, at 26-years-old, he is one of the most prolific wide forwards in European football.
Now, the youngster who grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium is not just a role model for his dedication to improve and develop on the pitch, but an inspiration to the youth in encouraging people to speak out for injustice.
Southgate praised Sterling and teammate Jude Bellingham who received racist abuse in their 4-0 victory over Hungary last Thursday and promised to stand by his players in their protests against racism.
“I don’t know how many camps we have had in the last four years, but I seem to be talking about this subject every time we’ve been together,” Southgate said in a video call on Saturday.
“Our players are incredibly mature in the way they deal with it. They feel supported by their teammates, which is very important to them. Their teammates realise how challenging it must be for our Black players and how disappointing it is in the modern world that we continue to have to answer these questions because of the incidents that happen.
“But we can only keep taking the stance we have done and hope we continue to send the right messages, not only to people in football but across society.”
England will have their final game of the international break away to Poland on Wednesday 8th September.