For some reason, it’s been a common theme among the English fanbase to continuously question, and almost passionately object to, Raheem Sterling’s starring role in Gareth Southgate’s England team.
Whether it be because of his disappointing domestic form, or the fact that there are ‘better’ options on the bench, England fans have always been quick to bemoan the Manchester City’s unwavering inclusion in the starting XI.
Admittedly, it hasn’t always been a smooth-running international career for Sterling. He was handed his debut for the senior side at just 17-years old by Roy Hodgson and was subsequently part of the disastrous squads at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 – managing one assist over those two tournaments.
Although the Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia three years ago, Sterling only registered another one assist. It was symptomatic of his England career up to that point – he was always present and playing but he’d never recreated the blistering domestic form he showed for City over the years, managing just two goals and 12 assists in his first 44 caps.
But ever since the conclusion of that memorable World Cup for England, Sterling has done nothing but shine for his country. In the three years leading up to Euro 2020, the winger made 17 appearances for his nation and registered 12 goals with ten assists; he’s been on fire since Russia.
But, despite this staggering form on the international scene, he still had his doubters heading into this summer’s European Championship; the main reason being a comparatively tough domestic season for Man City during the 2020/21 campaign.
In the three seasons prior, Sterling had racked up a whopping 86 direct goal involvements in the Premier League for the Cityzens – that’s an average of just under 29 a season.
In the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, that figure dropped to 18 (ten goals and eight assists), averaging a goal contribution every 140 minutes. Let’s be honest, those are still very good numbers, especially for a player who had been touted as out of form and been seen as out of favour for the majority of the season.
He was deserving of his starting place at Euro 2020 as much as anyone – there’s no doubt.
Despite many corners of the English fanbase berating Sterling, Southgate has always stuck by his man and has once more given him a starring opportunity at Euro 2020 – and, my goodness, has he taken it.
The winger has been the hero of the Three Lions’ summer thus far. He has scored in three of his country’s four fixtures at the tournament and notched three of England’s four strikes up to this point, as well as putting in a fantastic all-round performance in England’s round of 16 victory against Germany.
He’s been pivotal, heroic and downright sensational for his nation at this summer’s European Championships, and long may it continue as England face Ukraine in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Whatever he has been said to have done wrong, the 26-year old has proved his doubters wrong and it’s about time we start to appreciate how lucky England are to have him in the starting XI, not continue to question why he’s there.