Sterling can be England's Overmars

2014-09-08 08:40
Raheem Sterling (Gallo Images)

Basel - England captain Wayne Rooney has likened teammate Raheem Sterling to the former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars and predicted a "massive" future for him at club and international level.

Sterling, 19, burst onto the scene with Liverpool last season and was one of the few players to emerge with any credit from England's dismal showing at the World Cup in Brazil, where they went out in the group stage.

Ahead of Monday's opening 2016 European Championship qualifier against Switzerland in Basel, Rooney revealed that he had given the teenager a pre-World Cup pep talk in which he told him about his similarity to Overmars.

"I sat down with him before the World Cup and showed him videos of Marc Overmars. He reminded me of him. I think he has the potential to be as good," the Manchester United striker told a media briefing on Sunday.

"He's a fantastic player. You saw that last season, and with the start to this season.

"He's quite an unusual player. He can play right across the front line, out wide. Although he's a small lad, he's really strong as well.

"He's a young lad, but the potential he's shown is incredible. He'll be a massive player for us (England) for the next 10-15 years, and unfortunately, for Liverpool!"

A lightning-quick, right-footed left winger, Overmars won 86 caps for the Netherlands and starred for the Arsenal team that won a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1998. He is now the director of football at Ajax.

Sterling was England's stand-out player in their friendly against Norway on Wednesday, winning the second-half penalty from which Rooney scored the game's only goal and giving the Norwegian defence a series of discomfiting moments.

Although England mustered only two shots on target in the game, manager Roy Hodgson was staunch in his defence of his players afterwards, describing journalists' questions about the team's statistics as "absolute fucking bollocks".

While he cut a calmer figure as he fulfilled his pre-game media responsibilities on Sunday, Hodgson said that he would always put the team's needs before any concerns about his own reputation.

- England 'a dribbling team' -

"I've never sought popularity. I like to consider myself a good professional, a good coach, and someone who believes in his players," Hodgson said.

"It's unusual for me to get angry with my players because I protect them. If I'm guilty of anything the other night, it was of protecting players from unfair criticism and standing up for them.

"But be careful about stereotyping me too much as a calm, collected person."

Hodgson ducked questions about his future beyond England's qualifying campaign for Euro 2016, but he spoke with enthusiasm about leading his relatively inexperienced squad into a new era.

"I was half-promising my wife that I would finish at the age of 60, so it (retiring) is something I've contemplated in the past," said the 67-year-old.

"At the moment I don't. There are more important things ahead. You have to concentrate on the game ahead.

"If you start to be too philosophical and concerned with years ahead, that's not the best way to prepare the team for the coming game.

"My major focus is the game, and that this group of players develop in the way I want to see so we're a better team in France in 2016, a better team than we were in the last tournament.

"The players we have today are very different to the ones we had in 2012 (when Hodgson took up the role). I'm looking forward to seeing them develop.

"We have been a stereotype. We were a passing team. Now we're a dribbling team. We're not a long-ball team any more.

"We try and pass through the midfield and create openings. We're a very athletic, pacy team. The players' techniques are getting better, too."


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