The evening fixture at the Etihad this Saturday sees Raheem Sterling face the club he had an acrimonious divorce from in the summer. The fixture itself is a tough one to call. Liverpool are slowly turning a corner and there’s a degree of mystery surrounding Manchester City’s starting line-up. The only guarantee is that the travelling contingent from Merseyside will greet Sterling with a perpetual chorus of boos. Before they do, there’s a few things they should consider.
The newfound hatred Liverpool fans feel for Sterling comes from their deeply rooted passion. No set of fans idolises players with such fervour, nor do another group of supporters re-write opinions and history so fast if a would-be hero leaves.
The bigger the blow the more radical the restructuring of past events and repositioning of the player amongst the club’s legends. Fernando Torres was once the best striker in the world, according to those on the Kop, however, when he was sold they couldn’t have been happier. This was after a period of dismay that a player wanted to leave Anfield.
Torres’ perceived failure at Chelsea backed up the quick rewrite and nothing more was said about earlier claims.
It wasn’t so long ago that Raheem Sterling was the best youngster in the country, again, according to Kopites. When the unthinkable occurred, and he displayed an ambition to win trophies, he became an overrated greedy child, one that would be nothing more than an expensive bench warmer for City.
The description of ‘Bench Warmer’ might need a revision. Only two players under the age of 21 have managed to amass more game time in the top flight than Sterling this year, making the accusation City only wanted Raheem for his Home Grown status appear ill-founded.
His personal claim that he moved for trophies not cash appears justified. City sit top of the Premier League and have already qualified for the next round of the Champions League. Liverpool have sacked their manager, are presumably going to endure another difficult rebuilding phase, and sit 10th.
It appears Liverpool fans had no trouble with Sterling’s ambition when they lured him away from QPR but don’t like it when the same stunt is pulled on them.
These points alone won’t stop the away support on Saturday booing Sterling. However, that same section of crowd became annoyed when Manchester City fans booed the returning Daniel Sturridge, back in February 2013’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad. They believed he deserved more respect and had conducted himself in an appropriate manner.
Admittedly, on the day Sturridge (who scored and gave a man of the match performance) didn’t attempt to antagonise the City support and was professional. The damage had been done earlier when he left the club to join Chelsea after running his contract down. Supposedly the Liverpool fans see this isolated case as acceptable because he displayed ambition, nothing to do with a larger signing on fee after ditching the club that had developed him.
They should also note how James Milner won’t be endlessly booed by the City fans. And in fairness, any that do will feel within their rights. His loosely fitted veil about wanting more game time hid the fact he could secure an £8m signing on fee after going on a Bosman.
The very thing Liverpool fans accuse Sterling of – greed – is the only reason Milner decided to join the Anfield outfit. It’s not as if he was rotting away as a fringe player, and his secondary reason, that he wanted a more central role, is a spurious one when it’s taken into consideration who he would have had to push out of the City side for this to occur.
The truth is, James Milner had collected a nice haul of medals and joined Liverpool to bolster his retirement fund and have a stab at being a team’s centre midfield man alongside Jordan Henderson. If it sounds like a stepdown from David Silva and Yaya Toure, it’s because it is.
But his decision to move shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Milner had jumped from Leeds to Newcastle and then to Villa. In the era of the footballing mercenary he’s a fine example. Now Liverpool can rewrite history, grade him as one of the best midfielders England have had in the last ten years, repackage Sterling as a talentless gimmick, and slowly start the rhetoric that Jordan Ibe is already better than Raheem.
On some level Liverpool fans must be hopeful that Sterling scores on Saturday, at least then they’ll have a valid reason to express their dislike for the player.