LONDON (AFP) – Brendan Rodgers expects Raheem Sterling to silence the critics as the Liverpool midfielder looks to put a difficult week behind him at QPR on Sunday.
Sterling endured some unpleasant jibes after telling England manager Roy Hodgson he felt too tired to start last weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia.
Hodgson responded by leaving Sterling on the bench in Tallinn before eventually introducing him as a substitute in England’s 1-0 win, but his decision to publicly talk about the teenager’s mental and physical fatigue exposed him to the barbs of fans and pundits disappointed he cried off with what was perceived as a trivial excuse.
Rodgers has been left to restore Sterling’s bruised ego, but the Liverpool boss has no plans to rest one of his key players as the Reds return to Premier League action at Loftus Road this weekend.
“I’ve obviously read and listened to a lot of what has been said,” Rodgers said.
“He (Sterling) has been absolutely incredible for me and what has been nice to see is his maturity as a young man; he’s 19, a full international and he will hopefully be a key player for England and Liverpool for many years.
“This is a kid we bring up to be responsible and honest – lots of players will tell you they haven’t played when they haven’t felt right but this is a kid who didn’t say that.
“What he was saying was he felt tired. I’ve had it a number of times here with Raheem where he has been tired in his legs but he has gone on to play in games and be exceptional.
“What has been disappointing in the whole affair is it has been grossly unfair how the kid has been put on the back pages for something he clearly did not say.
“For a couple of days it probably shook him a little bit but he was brilliant in training on Friday.”
Rodgers can ill-afford to have Sterling’s confidence damaged by his England experience because Liverpool have struggled to recapture last season’s scintillating attacking play for much of the current campaign.
Aside from Luis Suarez, since sold to Barcelona, it was Sterling and England striker Daniel Sturridge, who were the most dynamic of Liverpool’s attackers as they went within a whisker of winning the title.
To Rodgers’ immense relief, Sturridge – who has missed seven matches after sustaining a thigh injury on England duty – is on the verge of a comeback and could feature at some stage on Sunday.
Meanwhile, QPR boss Harry Redknapp does not want any assurances over his position amid growing speculation that he is set for the sack.
Redknapp guided QPR back into the Premier League through the Championship play-offs last season, but the west Londoners have struggled on their return to the top-flight and sit bottom of the table with just four points from their seven matches.
Adding to the tension at Loftus Road, QPR owner Tony Fernandes reportedly decided to withdraw the offer of a new contract for Redknapp recently, while Tony Pulis and Tim Sherwood are said to be on the Malaysian’s shortlist as potential replacements for the former Tottenham boss.