This time last year Raheem Sterling was a young star who was bringing a fresh talent to the England side ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.
Fast forward 12 months and Sterling has once again been hitting the papers, but this time the stories all seem to be negative. The Liverpool winger has been making headlines because of his excessive contract negotiations at Anfield, as well as pictures showing him inhaling both nitrous oxide and smoking a shisha pipe.
Sadly, these negative stories have completely overshadowed the fact that the 20-year-old has been Liverpool’s standout player on the pitch.
Former England and Arsenal star, Sol Campbell has spoken out saying that Sterling has been too badly treated by sections of the media and it could destroy his career. He said: “He’s one of the most talented English players coming out of this country – Do not destroy him. Wake up. PFA, wake up, press wake up and protect this boy.”
All too often we hear stories of young stars, whether they be actors, singers or footballers, who found fame at a young age and have struggled to cope with the pressure. In 2007, Britney Spears suffered from a nervous breakdown and started shaving her head, Canadian pop-singer Justin Bieber has been arrested for numerous offences and now it seems Raheem Sterling has become the latest youngster who cannot handle the pressure of fame.
Savio Nsereko was once one Italy’s brightest prospects. At the age of 19 he made a big money move to East London to join West Ham United and everything went wrong from there. He was shipped back to Italy after only 10 games where he went AWOL. He hasn’t scored since he was a teenager and spent a stint in a Thai prison for faking a kidnapping in order to extort money from his family.
Whilst this is an extreme example of a young footballer who could not handle the pressures of fame, it is good as a warning. Every time we come round to the European Championships or the World Cup we complain that we do not give English talent enough support and Raheem Sterling is a clear example.
Many young footballers go through a spell of bad media attention – Wayne Rooney had it when he left Everton but it isn’t the way forward.
While he hasn’t been acting perfectly off the pitch, his performances on it haven’t changed. He is still showing the skill he possesses, having a better goal to match ratio than he did last season. This year he has scored 11 goals in the Premier League with seven assists and hasn’t been sent off all season. With a pass success rate of 80.5% it shows that amongst all the media hype about the 20-year-old his football has actually improved rather than got worse.
Raheem Sterling is one of England’s brightest talents and he has become the latest media scapegoat. It is time to take a step back from the pitchforks and start giving him the support any youngster needs at that time in their life.