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Sep, 14, 2012

Rodgers: Sterling will inspire kids

Brendan Rodgers is certain that Liverpool teenager Raheem Sterling's surprise England call-up won't go to his head.

Instead, Rodgers believes that Sterling's rapid rise will act as an inspiration to the club's Academy players.

England manager Roy Hodgson called up the 17-year-old for Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley after Theo Walcott withdrew due to illness.

Sterling, who made his Liverpool debut against Wigan in March, didn't get on to the pitch at Wembley, but his selection still raised eyebrows, given that he has never played for England above Under-19 level.

And Rodgers is keen to ensure the youngster, signed from QPR's youth set-up in 2010, doesn't fall victim to hype.

The Liverpool manager said: "Raheem is very level-headed. I've been really impressed by his mentality. He's a solid boy.

"It's the job of people who surround him to support him. As soon as he got the call-up, I rang his agent straight away. I said: 'You make sure you're not coming up here in a hurry!'

"There's a plan mapped out for him, and I think people know he's in a good place here. It's a great credit to everyone who works with him – the guys at the Academy back to the people at QPR who did a brilliant job in helping him to arrive at a club such as Liverpool. And he's received great support since he's been here.

Rodgers faith in Sterling was proved by selecting him to start in the recent 2-2 draw with Premier League champions Manchester City.

"The job for the manager is to pick the right opportunity for him. And he's come in and done very well. So support and guidance is important for young players, and to take them out at the right times as well as putting them in.

The former QPR youngster has only played five Premier League games in his career, making his rise to the national squad even more surprising.

"Speaking to Raheem when he came back, he enjoyed it with England. I got the call from Roy, and he talked about calling him up and the reasons for it. Those reasons were simple. He feels Roy is one for the future for England. He probably wasn't one who was going to get any time on the field, but it was an opportunity for him to get a sense of what we hope he can achieve in the next few years."

Rodgers can see signs that Sterling's progress into the senior England set-up has given hope to the other young players at Anfield.

"I've seen that with a number of the players already. The biggest thing you need in your life, whatever profession you're in, is hope. And I think what Raheem has given all the young players, from eight years of age at this club to the young professionals, is hope," Rodgers added.

Liverpool have the likes of striker Adam Morgan breaking through, having featured over pre-season and in Europa League qualifiers, with Rodgers hoping such players will follow Sterling's example.

"You come to Liverpool as a young player, you're never sure if you're ever going to get a chance. And now, over the next three to four months, we're going to see a number of young players – 18, 19 years of age – around the squad, playing. That's what he's done. I've seen the marked difference in the enthusiasm and desire of the young players who have come up to training, because of one reason – they have hope."

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