England coach defends Jamaican's call-up

Raheem Sterling’

England football manager Roy Hodgson says Raheem Sterling’s international career will not be rushed and denied that he included him in the England team to head off Jamaican interest.Hodgson pulled a shocker when the 17-year-old winger was called into the squad for today’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine after Theo Walcott withdrew through illness.

”He mustn’t think he’s become part of the set- up and has made it,” Hodgson said of the Liverpool teenager.

Of the Jamaica link, Hodgson added: “That’s not why I’ve called him up.” Sterling has been offered the chance to play for the country of his birth, but has represented England at Under-19, Under-17 and Under-16 level. England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has described Sterling’s fledgling impact on the game as “sensational”. He added Sterling was a “nightmare” for defenders.

Sterling, who was born in Maverley, Kingston, but moved to England as a child, was an eye-catching selection and Hodgson said: “When you bring someone in who has only burst on the scene in the last couple of games I’m causing headlines to be written.

“I’ve spoken to [Sterling’s club manager] Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and cleared this up with him. He’s satisfied.

“I’ve explained the thinking behind him coming in and I’ll make it clear to Raheem. He’ll be pretty lucky to get close to the pitch because there were plenty of players who were chosen in front of him.”

Hodgson added: “I can only hope he takes it in the right way and that it’s great to be invited into the England set-up.

“He has to try, next time, to make sure he is one of the original 23. We’ll be watching him before October and see whether he’ll merit a place in the squad.”

Hodgson also dismissed suggestions that Rodgers was worried about Sterling being fast-tracked too soon.

“I was under the impression Brendan did think he was ready for the Under-21s,” he said.

“I don’t think Brendan has given me the impression he didn’t think he was ready. He thought it was nice for him to be soaking up the atmosphere around a big game.

“We’re talking about a young and precocious talent. It has been a meteoric rise and we’re all concerned we dampen expectations as much as we

can“.We’ll be making it clear to Raheem ‘look it’s a great start, there’s interest in you, but don’t read too much into being here other than we’re watching you.’”

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore hoped Sterling might consider playing for the country of his birth.

“We definitely showed an interest in Sterling before and we are just waiting on him now for the go-ahead,” Whitmore previously said.

“We have seen him (Sterling) a number of times. He is a quality player with a lot to offer this programme, but it’s up to him, and the door is open,” he added.

Asked yesterday if he felt let down that the young winger did not choose Jamaica, Whitmore said not entirely, as whenever a player chose to represent a country he wanted them to be happy with their decision.

“I don’t believe in forcing someone to do something they don’t feel comfortable with. For the national team, any player we bring in we must see that sort of commitment and will to do so,” Whitmore declared. Though named in the England squad for the match today if Sterling does not play he would still technically be eligible to represent Jamaica. But Whitmore said he wasn’t holding his breath.

Of the youngster, Hodgson said: “I’d hope the chance to play for England is sufficiently interesting. I’m prouder of the English football shirt than to do that [select Sterling to ward off Jamaica interest].

“If Raheem decides he wants to play for Jamaica he goes with my blessing but I’d like to think he’ll have the right desire to play for England because I think he’s a potential English player.” (BBC)

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