• England Under-21s

Sterling handed maiden England U21s call-up

ESPN staff
October 3, 2012

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers thinks Raheem Sterling's maiden call-up to the England Under-21 squad is fully justified and has backed the teenager to go on to earn senior caps for his country.

Sterling has been a mainstay in Rodgers' new-look Liverpool side at the start of the Premier League season and was called into England manager Roy Hodgson's squad for the game with Ukraine last month.

Despite not featuring in the senior squad this time around - instead being asked to help England in their two-legged European Championship play-off against Serbia - Rodgers is confident a full England debut is not far away for Sterling and that Hodgson will handle him correctly.

Speaking prior to Thursday night's Europa League Group A home clash with Udinese, Rodgers said: "I'm always one for young players. Raheem has been brilliant. He is a real good kid who has stepped into the team and done exceptionally well, so in terms of whether he deserves a place [in the senior England squad] then of course - in terms of his performance level, he has been outstanding.

"Thankfully we have an England manager who has many, many years of experience and a wonderful group of players, so if he did get called up, he would be looked after I'm sure.

"I think with young players, we have seen so many times in this country top talents at 17 and 18 who have too much too young and pressure forced on them too early. By the time they get to 21 or 22 everyone has forgotten about them. But Roy is a very experienced manager and I'm sure when he feels the time is right for him to come in and make an impact, he will do that.''

Sterling is one of a clutch of youngsters who have impressed for the Reds this season, with 19-year-old defender Andre Wisdom and 18-year-old forward Suso also catching the eye. There has been talk of the trio being rewarded with new contracts and asked about the matter, Rodgers said: "I always believe you have to earn it, but there is no doubt that these boys have done well.

"It is something that we will look at over the next few months. There have been discussions between the club and representatives, but it is at an early stage.''

England U21 boss Stuart Pearce also handed call-ups to Manchester United newcomer Nick Powell and Tottenham youngster Andros Townsend, commenting: "For Raheem, to have an insight into the senior team, is fantastic.

"He's been in our development squads and has done extremely well for Liverpool, and credit to Brendan, who has given him his chance. We are pleased to have him.

"Andros Townsend has also done well and has been around Tottenham's first-team squad consistently this year. Nick Powell got his move from Crewe, to a massive club at United, and has made his first team bow. He has a really bright future.

"I'm really looking forward to bringing them into the squad to give us a lift. They couldn't come in at a more crucial time. Roy [Hodgson] and I have had a long conversation, last night being the last time, and he is more than aware of the Under-21s' key players. What's certain is the players are at the centre of the decisions both Roy and I make."

England U21 squad:
Ben Amos (Manchester United), Jack Butland (Birmingham), Declan Rudd (Norwich), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough); Ryan Bennett (Norwich), Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Craig Dawson (West Brom), Tom Lees (Leeds), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Adam Smith (Tottenham), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool); Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Henri Lansbury (Nottingham Forest), Jason Lowe (Blackburn), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Nick Powell (Manchester United), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace); Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Marvin Sordell (Bolton), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Connor Wickham (Sunderland).

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