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Raheem Sterling: The inside story on England's young star

PRODIGY: Raheem Sterling cracks a smile during an England training session

WHEN HE stepped onto the pitch in Manaus on Saturday night, super talented Raheem Sterling was one of the youngest players to represent England at a World Cup.

But it was only a few years ago that the 19-year-old was just an ordinary schoolboy, playing football for fun at Copland School, in Wembley, north London.

“I saw his football potential before he actually attended Copland,” Paul Lawrence, the PE teacher who coached Raheem in those early days, told The Voice. “His sister kept telling me about him, so two years earlier I arranged for him to join a training session with some Year 7s and 8s. He ran rings around them all, scored a few goals and made a lot of chances. I knew he was going to be something extra special.”

Lawrence coached Sterling – who was then playing for London team Queen’s Park Rangers youth squad – throughout his time at Copland until just after Christmas in 2010 when he got a £600,000 contract at Liverpool FC’s youth academy.

And he has gone from strength-to-strength, becoming the youngest person to ever play for Liverpool at senior level and the second youngest after Michael Owen to score for the club in the Premier League.

FUTURE

It is no wonder that in December 2013, Liverpool extended his contract, cementing his future with the club.
The Voice sports editor Rodney Hinds said: “He’s only 19, but he’s got star quality. You see that in some young players but then they fall off the radar.

“Sterling, however, was pivotal to what Liverpool did last season when they nearly won the Premier League title. He’s got zest, he’s got enthusiasm and he’s got pace and that’s the killer term in football – if you are quick, you’re normally ahead of the game.

“So while he’s no Pele at this moment in time, he’s at the right club under a good manager [Brendon Rogers] who will develop him. Six months ago there was talk that he was going to go on loan as he was not doing very well, but the manager nurtured him and he has grown in maturity.”

Born in Jamaica, some – his mother Nadine among them – had hoped he would go on to represent the Caribbean island internationally. In the end, Sterling – one of six talents shortlisted for Young Player of the Year – chose England.

With the eyes of the world watching, and the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders, Sterling proved in the match against Italy on June 14 that he could deliver.

For Lawrence, seeing his former pupil in Brazil was a proud moment for him, who described Sterling as “popular with friends from all walks of life [who was] nice to be around.”

“I’m extremely proud Raheem will be playing for England, I don’t think the fact that he is Jamaican born should make a difference. He grew up and went to school here and he has been here from the age of five so I think it’s all good.”

Sterling’s remarkable rise has not been without its challenges.

In 2013, the father-of-one was arrested over an alleged assault on his model girlfriend, but was found not guilty. He was again charged with another assault but the case was abandoned after alleged witnesses did not attend.

Hinds added: “When you’re a footballer, you are in the glare of the public eye, so you have to fix yourself up sooner than the average 18 or 19-year-old. We’ve seen Sterling mature.

“He’s not getting worried about the hype, he’s just playing football and I think that’s the most fascinating thing you can do. Sterling is just playing like he’s still in the school playground at Copland with his mates having a great time.”

“Sterling is sending a great message to the young, black aspiring footballers today. Young boy or girls will watch him over the next four weeks and see someone they can relate to playing football at the highest level.

“So even though he is only 19 and still very wet behind the ears, he’s a role model already. Win, lose or draw, there is a young person who will feel inspired and that’s what sport is all about.”

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Tafarin Notice headed to the streets of Lewisham and Harlesden to ask people who they would be supporting this World Cup and what they think of Raheem Sterling

Lenworth Blake, 43, barber

England is where I earn my bread so England is my team; same for Sterling, he was grown and raised here so he should carry them. As you can see, Jamaica is not in the World Cup and Sterling is a good player so the public need to see him, so I think it’s a good look for him. Everybody deserves a fair chance and I hope if the [older] players are not selfish and give him the ball, he will put it where it’s meant to go.

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Marc Baffe-Bonnie, 43, pharmacist

I will be supporting Brazil, as England are not likely to make it out of their group. I’m not too keen on the coach [Roy Hodgson] as he does not look as though he can gear them up; he’s like someone’s favourite uncle and does not offer the authority it will take to get them through. England stand a better chance of winning with Sterling in the team than out, but in terms of winning the World Cup, it is not likely. Go Brazil! Surprise me, England!

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Colin Carr, 41, business owner

I’m supporting England, even more so as they have players like Raheem Sterling on board. I like Sterling, he’s a good player and it’s a good opportunity for him. I think it’s a good thing that he’s playing for England. They must have seen something in him for him to be chosen, and he will go further. He’s our boy!

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Khamis Gundona, 28, trainee solicitor

I’m supporting Ghana and England, because my heritage is Ghanaian but I was born and raised here. Sterling will contribute to the team massively just because of his pace and the fact that he is able to get in and around players. I think the whole team in general have massive talent – they also have Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck so it will be interesting.

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Dolly Richardson, 43, hairdresser

Sterling is a good football player and also a good friend of mine. He’s a very nice guy. I’m glad he is playing for England and I like what he is doing as I live here myself even though I am Jamaican born. I like his red lips and his lovely eyes. Big up, Sterling! Big up, from Dolly.

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Jean-Louis Zoungla, 40, retail manager

I think Raheem Sterling is good for England and is giving them a better chance of going further in the tournament. I don’t think the fact that he is Jamaican and representing England should not make a difference as he grew up here.

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