LONDON (AFP) – Frank Lampard came to the defence of Raheem Sterling on Wednesday, saying the Liverpool midfielder had been “brave” to admit to feeling tired.
Sterling did not start England’s Euro 2016 qualifying win in Estonia on Sunday but came off the bench to earn the free-kick from which striker Wayne Rooney scored the only goal of a 1-0 victory.
However, both the subsequent decision of England manager Roy Hodgson to reveal the fact Sterling had told him he was tired and the player’s admission of tiredness have both provoked much debate within English football.
In particular, there have been plenty of people questioning both Sterling’s fitness and indeed his commitment, but Lampard said they were wrong to turn on a 19-year-old yet to develop in full physically.
“I think he is actually quite a brave boy to say, ‘You know what I am not quite at my best here’,” former England midfielder Lampard, who got to know Sterling when they were both members of Hodgson’s World Cup squad in Brazil, told BBC Radio Five on Wednesday.
“I am actually quite upset, not with the manager as such, but that the aftermath has been a lot of people criticising Raheem Sterling – who is probably in the top two or three players in our country and we need him to be at his best – for making quite a brave decision.
“I think we need to get behind him. Whether it is right or wrong, I don’t know, but we are all individuals and he made that call.”
Inevitably, one of the accusations levelled at Sterling, an increasingly influential figure for both club country, is that as a highly-paid professional he ought to be able to maintain fitness.
However, Lampard said: “I would take the money out of it. That is easily said and I hate it when money gets drawn into things, in terms of ‘because he is getting paid (this) he should act like this’. It happens too much.
“The fact is, when that’s your job, when you are doing it regularly, you have to make calls. I think Raheem made a judgement call on that game alone.
“Hopefully he will get 100 caps and be very successful for England.”
But Lampard said one area where money was an issue was in terms of the wages being paid to players who, unlike Sterling, have yet become Premier League regulars.
“I think we are maybe giving very big wages to young players who maybe aren’t quite ready for it, and who can’t handle it,” Lampard explained.
The 36-year-old is currently on loan at Manchester City from the Premier League champions’ sister club New York City after being released by Chelsea last season.
Lampard is due to arrive in the United States early next year, in time for the 2015 Major League Soccer season, but there has been speculation his stay at Eastlands could be extended.
Lampard though insisted his contractual situation had not changed.
“I am contracted here (City) until January,” he said. “I am enjoying every minute of training at this level and being able to get game time. That is as far as it goes at the moment.
“Speculation has come because of a couple of goals, but at the moment there is nothing to be said.”