Sterling takes a tumble but never recovers
TWO big decisions this week left the country staring in the face of exits from Europe. The common thread is that both times Sterling has crashed.
Pounds sterling and Raheem Sterling – goodness knows the latter cost enough of the former. But when the moment came, the £49 million man could not deliver.
Joe Hart may have seemed hellbent on taking prime scapegoat duties from his club team-mate – certainly if West Ham won the World Cup for England, Manchester City have been doing their darnedest to lose it. A couple of goalkeeping howlers is one thing, though – spur-of-the-moment, lapse-of-concentration blunders. But Roy Hodgson is wilfully culpable for all of Sterling’s failings and England’s subsequent void in his department all tournament.
As he prepared back in Chantilly for last night’s game, the thing he decided in his wisdom that was required against Iceland was width.
So inevitably, with Andros Townsend presumably watching at home or on holiday with his feet up, all Sterling.
Despite his precocious rise to fame, the winger is not the most confident player at the best of times.
Hodgson’s assistant Ray Lewington admitted as much when he joined up in May. Sterling had to be coaxed out of his shell to run at people, he revealed this week.
However, after that tactic had failed to produce much by way of end product in the opening game in Russia, Sterling retreated back into his shell against Wales as the boos started to rain down upon him.
As a result, he was hidden away for his own protection in the final group game against Slovakia. eyes turned again to “We’re going to try look after him and try to ease him back and not rush him because we know there’s a really good player there,” Lewington had added kindly by way of explanation for the selection decision.
Yet just seven days later and he was straight back into the starting line-up expected to unleash hell on the same resilient defence that thwarted Cristiano Ronaldo. Gulp.
After just four minutes, the plan seemed to be a masterstroke.
His pace took him through on goal to chase Daniel Sturridge’s diagonal pass, a touch took him past the goalkeeper and – bang – Hannes Halldorsson brought him down. Penalty, and England were