English Premiership

Hodgson continues to back Sterling

2015-06-08 08:12
Raheem Sterling (Supplied)
Raheem Sterling (Supplied)

Dublin - England manager Roy Hodgson warned Raheem Sterling he will need to develop "thicker skin" after the under-fire forward was roundly jeered during a goalless friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

Sterling, 20, has become the target of opprobrium since revealing he rejected a contract offer worth £100,000 a week from Liverpool, and his every touch met with a volley of boos at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

With each week yielding a link to a different club, Hodgson warned that life could get harder for Sterling before it gets better.

"I think he's going through a bad time publicly," Hodgson said.

"You can't expect people just to shrug off the criticism he has been receiving, not least from the local press in Liverpool. That becomes national pretty quickly.

"He does ever so well and tries well to shrug it off, let his football do the talking.

"He needed this game to realise that if he is going to get it out of his system, he's going to have to work harder still and get a thicker skin than he has at the moment."

Sterling was replaced by Andros Townsend in the 66th minute after a subdued display, but Hodgson said he had "no reservations" about selecting him for this weekend's 2016 European Championship qualifier in Slovenia.

"I trust Sterling. But players are not robots," Hodgson told reporters.

"He's done some fantastic things for us, but today (Sunday) he didn't hit those heights. It'll take a lot before I and the English national team sway from Raheem Sterling."

While Hodgson admitted his side "never got close" to their best level during an insipid game that saw Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy make his England debut, he took heart from the fact the match had passed off without incident in the stands.

Rioting far-right hooligans had caused the last meeting between the teams in Dublin in February 1995 to be abandoned after only 27 minutes, but with the Football Association having urged the 3,000 travelling supporters to behave prior to Sunday's reunion, there was a distinct lack of edge to the atmosphere.

"Two obvious positives were the spirit in which the game was played - competitive, both teams trying to win -- and the atmosphere in the stadium," said Hodgson, who was present at Lansdowne Road in 1995.

"The behaviour of the fans was a remarkable positive."

It is now 30 years, and six matches, since England last beat Ireland, and you have to go back to May 1964 for the last English victory on Irish soil.

But England can at least draw solace from their serene progress in qualifying for Euro 2016, where they have a six-point lead in Group E ahead of their trip to Ljubljana.

Ireland's situation is rather more parlous, in a taut Group D that also contains Scotland, Poland and world champions Germany.

Two points below the two automatic qualifying places, Ireland face a pivotal showdown at home to Scotland on Saturday, but manager Martin O'Neill says they will take heart from their display against England.

"Overall, (you ask) players to go and try to perform because it's the last opportunity to do so," said O'Neill, who gave a debut to Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter. "I think there was a very decent response."

O'Neill revealed that his captain John O'Shea had complained of tightness in his calf, but he is hopeful the Sunderland centre-back will be fit enough to take on the Scots.

O'Neill refused to be drawn when asked to comment on reports the Irish government is to investigate the revelation that FIFA paid the Football Association of Ireland five million euros ($5.5 million) after Thierry Henry's handball took France to the 2010 World Cup at Ireland's expense.

"I'm glad you're asking me that," he said with a smile.

"My answer will be complete shtum."

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