Sterling pledges future to England
Raheem Sterling has ended Roy Hodgson's concerns over the Liverpool winger's future by pledging his international career to England.
The precocious young talent holds dual nationality with Jamaica, where he was born to Jamaican parents and spent the first five years of his life before emigrating to London.
Sterling remains eligible to represent Jamaica despite making his senior debut for England against Sweden, as last month's meeting was only a friendly.
Hodgson admitted there was still an outside chance of losing Sterling when he called up the 18-year-old for the Stockholm fixture but the winger, having committed his long-term future to Liverpool with a new five-year contract last week, has now brought clarity to his international career too.
Sterling said: "Obviously, I've got Jamaican roots. I was born there and my mum and family are from there, but no one tried to put any pressure on me, which was the good thing. I couldn't turn my back on England because I've grown up through the English youth system and progressed from there, so I couldn't just switch over.
"It was a good thing for me to be called up and make my debut. That was obviously a dream come true. As a 15-year-old, I can remember sitting at home and praying to get an Under-16 call-up, so to be getting a senior call-up a few years later was one of the best things that ever happened to me. So obviously, I want to keep driving on and do a bit more. It's 100 per cent going to be England from now on."
Sterling has enjoyed a meteoric rise at Liverpool, having joined the club for an initial £600,000 from Queens Park Rangers in February 2010 and made three substitute appearances for the first team under Kenny Dalglish, before cementing his place as a regular under Brendan Rodgers.
Talks on the first senior contract of the winger's career dragged on beyond his 18th birthday on December 8, alerting Manchester United and Chelsea, among others, to the prospect of a compensation deal, but Sterling insists the delay had nothing to do with his demands on Liverpool.
He explained: "It was a relief to sign the contract. It had gone on for a few weeks, so it was good to get it all finalised and done. It was not really about finance for me. I just really wanted to get the contract sorted. It was just a case of how quickly we could get it done. When people were asking why I wasn't signing, it was at a time when we hadn't even started negotiating. It was a case of waiting for the right time and when it came, I signed straight away.
"My mum wouldn't let my feet get off the ground anyway. She is really inspirational in my life and I thank her for that. She thinks she knows a lot about football. She tries to tell me what I can do better and some of the things the manager is telling me, she is telling me as well, like about getting into the box. 'You're never in the box,' she says to me, but she must have a point because the manager is saying it as well."
Speaking to the national media for the first time since his emergence at Liverpool, Sterling also insisted that the public perception of him - based mainly on his run-ins with Rodgers, on the 'Being Liverpool' television documentary - is wrong.
"To get a rollicking on telly was a bit shameful," he said. "Me and Brendan spoke about that later and he knows I didn't say what it looked like I did and it was all a bit of a misunderstanding. People must have thought I was a little cocky kid, but it was all cleared up.
"As a young player, you need the harsh treatment, but mine came really harsh. You need stuff like that, though, to make sure you have the respect for the manager. I'm not cocky. I'd say I've got swagger.
"That's it. Obviously, I know what I can do on the pitch, so I'm confident on the pitch, but not cocky off it, no. I'm nowhere near where I think I can be, particularly in terms of goalscoring and the attacking side of my game. There's a lot more to come."
- Reprinted from the UK Guardian website