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Oct 3, 2012

Rodgers: Sterling deserves England call

Brendan Rodgers is confident that England manager Roy Hodgson has the experience to manage Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling's transition to international football.

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Sterling has missed out on a call-up for Hodgson's squad to face San Marino and Poland in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, despite being part of the set-up for last month's 1-1 draw against Ukraine at Wembley. Instead, the 17-year-old will join up with the England Under-21s for their two-legged Euro 2013 play-off against Serbia.

Sterling has made rapid progress since he was handed his Liverpool debut as a late substitute against Wigan in March, and is likely to be given an improved contract when he turns 18 in December. But Rodgers, who is preparing his side for a Europe League meeting with Udinese at Anfield on Thursday night, is wary of pushing the teenager too quickly.

Sterling has not even played for England at Under-21 level, having jumped straight from the Under-19s to the senior squad when he earned his surprise call-up for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, for which he was unused substitute, and the Liverpool manager is keen to ensure the winger does not burn out.

He said: "First of all, Raheem's been brilliant. He's a really good kid, who has stepped into the team and done exceptionally well. In terms of asking whether he is deserving of a place [in the senior England squad], then of course. In terms of his performance level, he's been outstanding.

"England have got a manager who has many, many years of experience. And England have got a wonderful group of players. If he ever did get called up, he'd be looked after, I'm sure.

"I just think we've seen it so many times with young players in this country. Top talents at 17 and 18 get so much too young, or pressure forced on to them too early, and then they get to 21 or 22 and everyone's forgotten about them.

"Roy's a very experienced manager and when he feels the time is right for Raheem to come in and make an impact, he will do that, but the boy has done very, very well."

Rodgers is aware of the difficulties Theo Walcott faced in establishing himself at senior level following his surprise call-up to England's 2006 World Cup squad as a 17-year-old.

He added: "Young players need time to develop. In this country, we're very quick when we see a talent in feeling we have to push him up and keep pushing him up. We want to ensure those players are talents not just as 17, but at 27, and if they're managed correctly, then they can go on maybe to 37.

"Raheem's a level-headed kid, which is good. He's got good support around him, and he's taking everything in his stride at the moment. When the timing is right, hopefully that will be the case, because he's still got a lot to do and a lot to learn. But thankfully, he's got good focus and good concentration.

"Football players grow up wanting to play for a top club and wanting to play for their national team. If they earn the right to do that, then great. I just think it's important that the development of the player is taken into the equation as well. It's paced along the way.

"He's made a terrific start to his career, and it's important to keep it that way and keep his development moving in the right direction."

The first leg of England's Under-21 play-off against Serbia will be played at Carrow Road on Friday, October 12, with the return four days later in Krusevac.

England Under-21 squad: Ben Amos (Manchester United), Jack Butland (Birmingham), Declan Rudd (Norwich), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough); Ryan Bennett (Norwich), Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Craig Dawson (West Brom), Tom Lees (Leeds), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Adam Smith (Tottenham), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool); Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Henri Lansbury (Nottingham Forest), Jason Lowe (Blackburn), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Nick Powell (Manchester United), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace); Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Marvin Sordell (Bolton), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Connor Wickham (Sunderland).

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