Roy Hodgson has lavished praise on Raheem Sterling ahead of Crystal Palace’s Premier League match with Manchester City on Saturday.
Hodgson gave Sterling his England debut in 2012 and had no doubts he could develop into the player he is now.
Roy Hodgson gave Raheem Sterling his England debutThe City forward scored 25 goals in all competitions last season and has made a blistering start this campaign with nine in 11 matches.
The Palace manager also joked that he hoped the 24-year-old would repay him for all the praise in Saturday’s match, which is live on talkSPORT.
When asked about what most impressed him about Sterling’s development, he told talkSPORT: “It is the goalscoring. He was always a fantastic dribbler. He was always a very, very hard worker, could make good runs most of the time.
“I remember in Switzerland when he played in that position behind the front players, as he was doing for Liverpool at the time, he was quite outstanding.
“That was the criticism that could be levelled at him then, and often was, much to my displeasure as I would see him playing well and growing in confidence only to see that battered by attention he was getting elsewhere from social media and sometimes the media itself.
“It was draining his confidence. The big thing for Raheem is now there is no drain on his confidence and there is no doubts.
“I never had doubts about his ability and that has now largely been accepted by everybody. Of course, he is playing in a team that creates lots of chances and when he is able to get into the right areas he scores goals from it.
“On this subject, too, I think his maturity as a person is really fascinating to watch in terms of all the responsibility he has accepted not just as a Man City player, needing to score goals and play brilliantly every week to keep his place in the team, but also shouldering a very heavy burden on racism and the attention that is being paid to this racist problem we have.
“I think he’s been a brilliant spokesman and I can heap praise on him in the hope he will repay me by playing very badly.”
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Palace have a tough four fixtures before the next international break with Manchester City first up, followed by matches with Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea.
Hodgson was not willing to put a figure on the number of points he had visions of getting in those games.
He said: “It depends what you mean by vision. If you are talking about when I go to bed at night, I dream of 12 but I don’t think we will.
“If you are talking about how many points I am calculating, I don’t calculate points. It is game per game and as far as I’m concerned all one can do is prepare as best as one can, help the players prepare the best they can for the game ahead of them.
“There’s no point thinking about what might happen in two or three weeks’ time. It’s really a question of bridges to cross when you come to them.”
Palace are one of the lowest scoring teams in the Premier League with just eight goals this season.
Jordan Ayew has been the surprise goalscorer with three in seven games after costing just £2.5million and Hodgson thinks he can score 15 goals in a season.
“Yes I’d like to think so and I’m pretty certain he thinks he can,” he added. “I’m also certain Christian Benteke thinks he’s got a lot more goals to give the club as does Wilf Zaha.
“We are not short of players who can score goals for us but winning games is a balance. Fortunately we are able to defend quite solidly and as a result we have got our points without having to score too many.
“As we proved towards the end of last season, goals are there it’s just a question of when the force is turned on.”
LIVE on talkSPORT
Check out all the live commentaries coming up across the talkSPORT network this week
- Everton vs West Ham (Saturday, 12:30pm) – talkSPORT
- Blackburn vs Huddersfield (Saturday, 12:30pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Tottenham vs Watford (Saturday, 3pm) – talkSPORT 2
- Crystal Palace vs Man City (Saturday, 5:30pm) – talkSPORT
- Wigan vs Nottingham Forest (Sunday, 2pm) – talkSPORT 2
The 72-year-old also said he had no plans to retire just yet and will not walk away while he is still enjoying football.
He said: “I can carry on, there’s no doubt about that, if that’s the right thing to do and I will have to be convinced when the time comes that it is the right thing to do and it’s something I can really contribute to and give me the satisfaction that the last couple of seasons have done.
“I’m not prepared to put a date on the day when I’m going to say ‘football’s been great to me and now I’m moving aside for someone else to have a go’. I suppose you could argue that after a long run you should be prepared to move aside and let someone else have a go. But selfishly I still feel I can do it and still get so much pleasure out of the job. I won’t walk away willingly.”
Saturday is GameDay on talkSPORT as we bring you THREE live Premier League commentaries across our network, including Crystal Palace vs Man City at 5.30pm.