Southgate praises Sterling’s ‘incredible’ ability to rise to challenges

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Raheem Sterling speaks with England Manager Gareth Southgate during a England training session ahead of their World Cup Qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia at St Georges Park on August 29, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

England manager Gareth Southgate hailed Raheem Sterling’s resilience to prove doubters wrong as the thing that sets him apart from the rest.

The 24-year-old’s had his fair share of critics across his career, but left everybody suitably impressed by the manner in which he coped from receiving racial abuse from Chelsea supporters in a Premier League match for Manchester City in December.

Adding to that are Sterling’s ever-impressive performances under Pep Guardiola at City over the past three seasons with the likes of former Manchester United star Paul Ince tipping him for greatness.

Now Southgate has joined the queue in praising Sterling, while describing what his like to work with at the English national team.

“The thing that stands out with Raheem, we worked with him briefly with the U21s, [before] he moved up very quickly with Roy [Hodgson],” Southgate told talkSPORT.

“But he is so tenacious in his recovery from setbacks. His resilience at proving people wrong, responding in the right way to those challenges is incredible.

“He’s gone to a big club when he was very young in moving to Liverpool [from QPR as a 15-year-old], dealt with that, got himself in the first team. [Then] a lot of profile around the move to City, he adapted to that.

“New players signed every summer and thinking well his place is under threat. So he keeps responding to those challenges, he’s still only 24 years old.”

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The Three Lions boss paid tribute to Sterling’s brace in their crucial 3-2 UEFA Nations League win at Spain back in October, which ended a three-year wait to score for England.

Southgate added: “I think he’s had a phenomenal season and particularly pleased again for him the performance in Spain in particular with us was a really strong one.

“He has got to be one of the candidates for player of the year I would think.”

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