It is perhaps an indication of how much Raheem Sterling has grown up that he has shown he is contrite after his media team revealed he is poised to wear the skipper’s armband tonight when England face Holland.
Gareth Southgate’s men go head to head with the Dutch in Portugal in the vital Nations League semi-final clash and there is a chance that Tottenham ace Harry Kane, the Three Lions captain ordinarily, won’t start the match.
And it has been widely reported that Sterling would be given the nod, so much so, in fact, that his PR people released the news — and that was what got Sterling “fuming” as he put it. That in itself shows maturity. Perhaps it wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. These days, it seems, Sterling accepts he is a role model with certain responsibilities — and fair play to him for embracing the new attitude.
A press release that did the rounds earlier this week claimed the Manchester City star would lead out England on what will be the occasion of his 50th international cap for his country. Sterling was quick to try to rectify the situation as well as distance himself from the news. He said:
“I hadn’t had a conversation with anyone in my agency. I woke up this morning fuming. The first thing I did after I came off the phone to my agent was see Gareth Southgate down the hallway, and I apologised to him for what had happened. I don’t know where that’s come from.”
Meanwhile, Southgate stayed close-lipped over who would wear the skipper’s armband when he spoke to the press ahead of the match in Guimaraes. He explained:
“Harry Kane is our captain. If Harry doesn’t play I have a decision to make. At this moment in time, I’m not prepared to do that. If I confirmed anything about the team other than Raheem playing I would be doing half of Holland coach Ronald Koeman’s job for him. If I tell you Harry Kane’s playing, I’m giving Ronald half the team as well.”
The Three Lions coach knows just how important it is to do well in the competition and the boost the international set-up would receive if England managed to land some silverware for the first time since 1966.
“We know the batting order is the World Cup then the Euros but now we have a new competition and we want to be in the habit of starting to win things. It is time for us to try and challenge for some trophies and this represents a great chance to show how far we are building as a team. It’s remarkable how far we have come but we still have a long way to go.
“It would be massive for all of us in England to start winning trophies and winning big matches. This is the habit we want and the expectation we want to create.”