Club v Country rows are nothing new, but Liverpool’s current ding-dong with the England set-up, and in particular ex-Reds chief Roy Hodgson, has all the ingredients for a cracking fight.
After the last international break, when Daniel Sturridge arrived back to Merseyside injured and hasn’t played since, Anfield head honcho Brendan Rodgers’ frosty messages seemed to force the Three Lions boss into ruling the striker out for the recent Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Having caused a minor backlash from other clubs regarding preferential treatment, the last thing either party needed was the perception that 19-year-old hotshot Raheem Sterling asked to sit out the 1-0 win in Estonia.
Predictably, English football’s talking heads took to the airwaves and their laptops, although strong contrasts in opinions clearly exist.
Ex-Three Lions stalwarts Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker both staunchly defended Sterling on Twitter, with the former applauding the teenager for actively avoiding burnout and adding in another tweet that England players often ignore ‘the bigger picture’.
Fellow former England international Alan Shearer, however, sang a very different tune in The Sun:
“Too tired! He is 19 – and it’s October. I genuinely have never heard something like that in my career …This will stick with Sterling for some time, believe me. The working man who is up at 6am and home at 8pm does not want to hear how tired a 19-year-old professional footballer is.”
The range of opinions even extends to within Liverpool circles, with Robbie Fowler quoted in the Liverpool Echo praising Sterling for ‘a selfless act’, as former teammate Jamie Carragher holds a more sombre line on Sky Sports.
While insisting the conversation between player and manager should have remained private, Carragher wondered aloud whether Sterling had done the right thing, stating:
“Just come out after the game and say ‘I played Lallana, he came on and did well in the last game, I think Raheem needs a little bit of a rest’ and talk about it then. Rather than now, where there’s going to be a debate about Raheem Sterling and is he right at that age to be asking things like that? “
Of course, Rodgers could have helped the situation by resting Sterling against Middlesbrough a few weeks ago in the Capital One Cup, a competition the Northern Irishman has shown little regard in the past, instead of leaving him on the pitch for 120 minutes plus a 14-13 penalty shoot-out. But he didn’t.