'Stubborn' Sterling eyes 100 England caps

Rahim Sterling said he was determined to join Manchester City from Liverpool despite getting flak from many people.
Rahim Sterling said he was determined to join Manchester City from Liverpool despite getting flak from many people.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ALICANTE (Spain) • Raheem Sterling is not seeking vindication because he believed his actions were right all along.

Ahead of Manchester City's next Premier League game on Nov 21 - against former club Liverpool - the England winger cited stubbornness as his foremost characteristic.

By quickly establishing himself as a central figure in a City side who are top of the league, scoring six goals in the process, his decision to leave Anfield last summer has been justified. And Sterling, 20, said he never had any doubts, demonstrating the strength of character that enabled him to leave London for Liverpool aged 15, a quality that underpinned his family's move from Jamaica eight years earlier.

"I'm not trying to say I proved anyone wrong," he said on Wednesday. "It's just what I thought at the time was right for me. My heart was saying that (moving to City) is what I should do and I have no regrets.

"They are both big football clubs but I'm happy to be where I am now and with my development.

"I'm really stubborn. I'm really, really stubborn.

"Everything goes through one ear and out the other - my mum says that as well. If there is something I want to do, I do it."

Such single-mindedness was useful during an acrimonious transfer saga last summer, particularly when he was booed by 40,000 Republic of Ireland supporters during England's goal-less draw in Dublin in May.

Although Sterling plays down the incident, England manager Roy Hodgson was sufficiently concerned at the time to seek him out and tell him to take inspiration from how Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney had thrived in adversity during their careers.

"Roy told me to block it out and said that at the level of football I'm playing now, I'll get stuff like that," Sterling said ahead of England's friendly against Spain today.

"It's about how you deal with it. He said, 'Look at the players like Stevie and Wazza. When they were playing, they were getting criticised or they were in the public eye for the wrong or right reasons', so he just said, 'Focus on your football and try to do well for your country.'

"It was always going to be difficult because at the time everything was going on, there were people who didn't agree with it. Everyone has their opinion, and they are entitled to their opinion, but my opinion was that I thought it was time for me to move on."

Perhaps as a legacy of being a seven-year-old immigrant, Sterling is eager to keep moving forward and unashamed about setting ambitious targets.

Having been a junior member of England's World Cup squad in Brazil last year, he will be one of Hodgson's main men during the European Championship in France next summer. His long-term aim is to emulate Gerrard and Rooney by joining the 100-cap club.

"I've got 18 now so hopefully if I keep working hard and do well for my club, then I can be picked for more squads," he said.

"It's a long time away but 100 caps is definitely my ambition."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline ''Stubborn' Sterling eyes 100 England caps'. Print Edition | Subscribe