In Depth

Raheem Sterling: tired teen could face Liverpool and England burnout

Roy Hodgson dropped the Liverpool winger after he complained of 'fatigue' after nine games in 32 days

England scraped past Estonia in Tallinn on Sunday and while there was little drama on the pitch there was plenty off it, after Raheem Sterling was apparently left out of the starting line-up because he was "tired" and Wayne Rooney scored the winning goal just as England prepared to substitute him.

The intrigue began before the match when England manager Roy Hodgson was asked why Liverpool youngster Sterling had been left out of the team.

From the moment he replied that it was because the player had declared himself tired "it seemed likely England's manager had come out with something that would be spun into another fist-gnawingly unnecessary gaffe", says Barney Ronay in The Guardian.

Hodgson was unapologetic and even praised Sterling for being honest about his physical condition. But Hodgson was the one who came under fire for his own "unwise candour" in revealing why he had left the Liverpool man out, says Matt Dickinson in The Times.

Sterling's claim is not outlandish as he has played nine games in 32 days and, thanks to England's weak Euro 16 qualifying group, "Hodgson was able to listen indulgently to Sterling saying that he was tired and change his starting XI to accommodate Adam Lallana".

However, as with other youngsters like Jack Wilshere, "we have seen it is perfectly fine for a club manager to squeeze the young man dry but the national team must make the compromises".

Dickinson gets the "uncomfortable feeling that we will be back having this argument soon enough, and that Sterling will be at the heart of it, given how much he carries the hopes of Liverpool and England".

And that is the nub of the issue, says Ronay. "The wider question is, as ever: are we watching a rare talent being moulded and coaxed to its full potential; or a young player being worn down, his light dulled by the unusual pressures of playing so often, and with such responsibility, for club and country?"

But it is the Liverpool question that concerns Matt Hughes of the Times, who notes: "Sterling's withdrawal will raise further questions over the influence of Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, on the England team after Hodgson substituted both Sterling and Jordan Henderson at half-time in last week's win over San Marino."

Rodgers blamed Hodgson when striker Daniel Sturridge suffered a thigh injury with England last month, he adds.

The other incident involved claims from ITV that the England bench had submitted the paperwork to have Rooney substituted seconds before he scored England's winner. However, Hodgson insisted that he had not decided which of his strikers to take off for Rickie Lambert.

"Neither could have been too critical of me if I had chosen him," Hodgson told the Daily Telegraph. "As it turned out I didn’t have to make the choice, as Danny Welbeck rolled his ankle."

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