Roy Hodgson Vows to Save Raheem Sterling From Burnout
With England on cruise control by half-time in Thursday's 5-0 victory over San Marino, coach Roy Hodgson was quick to substitute Raheem Sterling at the interval in a bid to keep one of his most prized assets fresh for Sunday's slightly more testing qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.
England manager Roy Hodgson insists he won't let rising star Raheem Sterling suffer from burnout on the road to Euro 2016.
With England on cruise control by half-time in Thursday's 5-0 victory over San Marino, Hodgson was quick to substitute Sterling at the interval in a bid to keep one of his most prized assets fresh for Sunday's slightly more testing qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.
Hodgson knows Sterling's emergence over the last 12 months has been a major bonus as he tries to revitalise an England team that had grown old and often lethargic in recent years.
But the 19-year-old Liverpool midfielder's dazzling breakthrough campaign last season went into overtime with the World Cup and he has shown a few signs of suffering from both mental and physical fatigue in recent weeks.
Sterling has scored only once in his last 10 appearances for club and country and, while his performance against San Marino was energetic enough, Hodgson had seen enough to know the teenager would be better off taking a break.
Asked if there was a chance Sterling could crumble under the weight of expectations rapidly growing around him with England and back at Anfield, Hodgson said: "He is not alone in that. A lot of players have found that in the past.(Wayne) Rooney, for example. We are conscious of managing it.
"I don't think it will need managing until he shows signs of suffering from it.
"When he shows signs of not being quite as sharp, not doing as well, trying too hard, that night be the moment we think we have to manage this and give him a break.
"But that is not the case at the moment and I don't think Liverpool need to worry. His first half (against San Marino) was a lively as he could have been."
- Pace and poise -
Although Sterling's potent combination of pace and poise have made him the most eye-catching of Hodgson's new recruits, the victory against San Marino highlighted the potential of Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck and his club colleagues Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
With Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, who is out of the current qualifiers due to injury, also part of a youthful influx that forms the core of Hodgson's squad, the coach admits he is fortunate to be in charge at a time when the future looks relatively bright.
"It's something we talk about, attacking talent. Strangely, it has manifested itself," said Hodgson, whose side are top of Group E after winning their opening two matches.
"We didn't know Sterling would turn out a year ago, the player he is today.
"We didn't know Welbeck when he got his chance. We didn't know Sturridge when he got his chance.
"I have been lucky enough to be there when it happened and, I suppose, bright enough to realise that I don't have to hang my hat on 30-year-olds and if these guys are that good, I can put them in the team.
"Looking forward this team is mostly 21 or 22. I am enjoying the moment where they gain experience and they are providing a lot of things which give us a lot of satisfaction."
Coached by Magnus Pehrsson, a 38-year-old Swede whose playing career included a brief spell in England with Bradford in 1996, Estonia started their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovenia, but were beaten 1-0 by Lithuania on Thursday.
That defeat featured a red card for Ken Kallaste, which rules the left-back out of Sunday's clash as the hosts aim to stop England captain Rooney, whose penalty on Thursday took him to 42 international goals, moving closer to Bobby Charlton's record of 49.
"It's reachable and if I can get the goals to help me beat that record I would be delighted, but I'm focused on getting the wins," Rooney said.