OneFootball·27 October 2022
OneFootball·27 October 2022
Raheem Sterling has long been a household name within English football and the Premier League, but it’s easy to forget that he made his senior debut over ten years ago for Liverpool.
His substitute appearance in a shock defeat to Wigan Athletic on March 24, 2012 – aged 17 years and 107 days old – made him the third-youngest player to play for the club, having been signed from Queens Park Rangers two years earlier.
However, this was no story of overnight success, which the Kingston-born winger was keen to stress in an exclusive interview with STATSports and OneFootball.
“Moving out of my family home in London [as a teenager] and making the journey up to Liverpool was a huge sacrifice,” he explains.
“But that gave me a chance to really knuckle down and focus on football, being away from my friends and other potential distractions.
“Of course, that’s not everyone’s pathway but it was mine. I have the very same conversation with my son now, that if you’re good at something you have to maximise your dedication and input.”
But there were also physical challenges alongside geographical ones with Sterling among the smaller players throughout his development, which can lead to talented individuals falling behind stronger, more physical teammates.
However, a mixture of self-reflection and playing regularly against older players meant he was not only able to excel among his peers – but against seasoned professionals too.
“Back then it didn’t feel so good,” he jokes. “I definitely took some kicks and there’s a frustration within yourself as well.
“But this [playing against older players] definitely helped me because when you’re playing against older players that are stronger than you, faster than you, it forces you to adapt and maximise your own strengths.
“This was always a challenge I needed to face, obviously I’m smaller than most players, but it’s something I had to navigate and make it work in my favour.”
In addition to your own work ethic, surrounding yourself with the right people is just as important for success and the 27-year-old is spoiled for choice when asked to recall those who have impacted him.
“From the people I’ve played with, two names spring to mind.
“It was a pleasure to work alongside Steven Gerrard and then when I went to Manchester City, someone like David Silva who you can really look up to and learn from.
“Their dedication and constant willingness to improve, despite how much they achieved in the game, how humble they were – those are the levels you need to replicate to succeed.”
And while the older generation have struggled to accept the prominence of statistics within football, Sterling believes integrating data as early as possible into your preparations can only benefit you.
“Technology is a big part of the modern game and more importantly it’s becoming readily available to everyone.
“This wasn’t the case for me. I didn’t start looking into that side of the game [on a personal level] until I was 21 or 22 years old.
“For young players with ambitions to become a professional, it’s good to get into that mindset early on because it becomes about your application, your routine and stats can give you a real window into what needs improving.”
With the World Cup approaching, Sterling also referenced the competitive nature within the England camp and how avoiding social media blooper reels serves as added motivation to stand out.
“I would definitely say it’s competitive.
“Any drills that we do, the cameras are always watching so you don’t want anything bad going up on the socials later that afternoon.
“A lot of the boys train hard but players like Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson really lead by example. Their levels don’t drop for anyone, whether it’s training or a matchday.”
It’s been a summer of change for the England winger who ended his seven-year stay with Manchester City to join Chelsea, telling Sky Sports he “needed his happiness back” after some difficult moments with the Etihad club.
But with eight goal contributions to his name already – everything points to Sterling getting the spark back in his boots.
This interview was completed with STATSports. The most powerful GPS tracker in sport, available here.