Old Roy has done it again, hasn’t he? Well, it’s an international soccer break so it would only be following tradition that Roy Hodgson say something that angers a large portion of England supporters, most likely supporters from the North. A little while ago it was playing a still injured Daniel Sturridge in a meaningless game to “test his resolve”, then it was not giving Sturridge his medically recommended rest postgame which resulted in the striker suffering a long term injury in training, then it was mocking his captain, Wayne Rooney’s, accent by saying he’s not the type to stand in front of lecture room. I mean, he’s not wrong but it’s not because of his accent. It’s because he knows ten words and a few hand signs that he uses to communicate to his handlers when he gets hungry or it’s time for nappies.
But now, it is Raheem Sterling’s turn to get The Hodge treatment. It has been clear for the last few weeks that Sterling hasn’t been 100% on the pitch. Be it fatigued from the extra games he’s played since the World Cup this summer or the weight of responsibility he has gained since bursting into the spotlight last season, Sterling is clearly going through a bit of a rough patch. So when Sterling was rested in yesterday’s game against Estonia, many people just looked at it as exactly that. The manager resting a talented young player that needed a rest. In the post-match interview, however, Hodgson gave a different take on the events. According to Hodgson, Sterling had come to him prior to the match and said “I’m feeling tired, I’d rather sit this one out”. Hodgson went on to have a thinly-veiled jab at Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, stating that it was “unfair if all of the expectations to give the player a little bit of a break” were to fall on him. He would also question whether or not Liverpool’s poor start to the season was having an effect on the player.
Let’s get this straight, Roy. It is your job to take care of and manage these players to the best of your ability. It’s why you are called a manager. If a player is coming to you and requests a break and is clearly having some issues, it’s smart to listen to him. Ultimately, you did and that was a wise choice. What I take issue with, however, is calling him out on it in a public interview. You have effectively fed one of your most talented youngsters to the wolves. It got so bad that Sterling spent the rest of the evening responding to horrific messages on Twitter. This isn’t some prima dona player looking to take it easy because the going got too tough. This is a highly-trained professional whose career and livelihood relies on their physical performance; a 19 year old kid, getting vile abuse because you thought it was best to call him out and abandon him. Man-management is a big part of your job as national team manager and this is not the way to go about it.
Speaking of your job as national team manager, you are effectively borrowing these players from the clubs they play at. Their salaries are paid by these clubs, they are trained on a day-to-day basis by these clubs, and you are lucky to work with these players. So yes, you are to treat them with a care that you have so far completely lacked. If a player requires a bit of a rest, work with their club team to do what is best for both club and country. Don’t whine about it to the press.
Finally, as for Liverpool’s start to the season effecting Sterling, if that was a concern of yours, maybe you should have listened to Sturridge when he requested the post-match rest. If you had, maybe he wouldn’t have been injured and maybe Liverpool would be doing better at this point. Then, maybe Sterling would not be effected as much. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Roy.
All in all, what was originally a non-story has turned into something of a controversy for one of England’s brightest young stars, which is really unfortunate. This was a situation that should have been kept in-house and just goes on the mounting pile of evidence that Hodgson just isn’t the man to lead England forward.
According to news outlets this morning, it is now understood that Hodgson went to Sterling to ask him questions about the match, not the other way around. If this is the case then it is even worse for both Sterling and Hodgson. Hodgson directly asked Sterling a question about his fitness and answered truthfully. Hodgson made the decision to rest his player. For Hodgson to, at best, misremember or, at worst, lie about the circumstances lead up to giving Sterling a rest, you really need to question their man management skills. Why should any of his players trust him at this point?