David Facey, Contributor
Former England star, coaches predict exceptional career for Sterling
Raheem Sterling has been tipped for great things - by the former England star who marked him in his first big Merseyside derby.
Jamaica's 17-year-old wonderkid took another big step in his footballing education by turning out for Liverpool against fierce rivals Everton in an explosive encounter.
It finished 2-2 with Sterling certainly not looking out of place among the galaxy of stars competing in an electric atmosphere at Goodison Park.
He was up against Everton captain Phil Neville, who played 59 times for England and is one of the most respected defenders in the English Premier League after winning six league titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League with former club Manchester United.
And Neville revealed that he has been a member of the Sterling fan club from the moment he first set eyes on him, playing for Liverpool reserves last season.
The Everton skipper said he knew straight away that Sterling - who left the mean streets of Maverley in Kingston as a five-year-old - had the 'wow factor' and would soon be playing at the highest level.
"I saw a lot of Sterling for Liverpool reserves last year and the form he showed then he has taken into the first team," Neville, a vastly experienced 35-year-old, explained.
"That's the biggest thing when you're a young kid, to take the form you have produced at youth level into the first team.
"Sometimes when you watch youth team football or reserve team football you don't probably see a great performance over the 90 minutes.
"But what you do see are things within that game that make you think: 'Jeez, he's got something'.
"Are players like Sterling brilliant over the 90 minutes? Probably not. But he will produce two or three things in the 90 and you think, 'this kid could go far'. And Sterling was the same.
"When you're at my age you see so many young kids coming through that you know what to look for. It's about whether they pass from A to B, it's if they produce one moment in that reserve game that gets you off your seat.
"And like I say, the reserve games I watched of Sterling last year, he produced one or two moments where you thought; yes, he has talent.
"He got his chance in the first team early, probably earlier than his manager at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, wanted to put him in. But considering how well he's done that's probably a good thing.
"He's a typical modern-day footballer - the footballer who is coming through now is technically better than when I was coming through.
"They seem a little bit quicker and sharper in their techniques and they seem to play with no fear.
"He's definitely one who's playing with no fear at the moment. He looks like someone who's on the crest of a wave, where everything seems to be going his way."
Liverpool boss Rodgers also feels Sterling has taken another giant step towards fulfilling his enormous potential.
He said: "It was an absolute cauldron for that Everton match and I'm so proud of my young players, especially Raheem.
"For him to step up and perform in that hostile environment at the age of just 17 is quite remarkable."
Another leading footballing figure singing Sterling's praises was Steve Gallen, who runs the youth academy for another English Premier League outfit, Queens Park Rangers.
Gallen coached Sterling from the age of 10 until he was sold to Liverpool for £500,000 two years ago - a fee that will rise to £5million if he continues to make a huge impact at Anfield.
Gallen commented: "What is so unusual about Raheem is how mature he has, what a terrific temperament he has for such a young player. We saw that again against Everton.
He's so quick and he's got terrific balance and that allows him to ride the nasty challenges. And even though he's always been on the small side for his age he's a wiry character and he's tougher than he looks.
"He was so good when he was here that he was usually playing against kids two or three years older than him - he was in our under-16s at 13 and 14, and in our under-18s when he was 15.
"He used to score bags full of goals in his first year or two with us because he was so much better than the lads around him. We had to move him up because he wasn't being tested.
"Raheem wasn't so prolific after that, but he still scored more than his share. He loves to score goals - just loves football in general. He's got a great attitude, and that will take him all the way to the top. I'm certain of that."