Raheem Sterling has gone from trying to do fancy tricks and flicks into being all about the end product.
Sterling, 23, has been in superb form for Manchester City this season, scoring four goals and providing two assists and making himself a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI.
Sterling knows he must produce for England as well but, at club level, he has risen to the challenge after bringing a new maturity and understanding to his game.
Sterling said: “The main thing now is to keep trying to be a goal threat.
“When I was a bit younger, I wasn’t too interested in scoring goals, I was all about trying to look nice and show people I’ve got a lot of ability.
“But now I’ve started to realise that no one remembers the fancy stuff you do on the pitch, it’s about the effectiveness and what you do for your team.
“As I’m growing and developing, I understand that now, especially with the national team because I need to get these goals going.
“I think I’m probably more driven now to be able to get on the end of things, being in the box a lot more.
“Before, I was going wide, trying to beat a player and now I’m trying to get on the end of stuff, being around for scraps and trying to make goals for myself.
“I’m much more confident when I’m in and around the penalty area now so I feel the goals will come for England as they have been doing for City.”
Sterling scored 23 goals in all competitions last season and won the Premier League title, League Cup and played a major role in England reaching the World Cup semi final.
That was a remarkable achievement by anyone’s standards, going from young prospect with potential to winning major trophies and it is therefore no wonder that Europe’s other top clubs are casting admiring glances.
But Sterling has gone three years since his last England goal and accepts that he must bring his club form into playing for his country.
Harry Kane has gone six games without a goal for England and Marcus Rashford missed two big chances against Croatia but Sterling is convinced the goals will come for the new look front three.
Sterling said: “It’s one of those things where, when you haven’t scored for a while you just need the right chance to come along.
“You have to keep your positivity and keep getting into the box.
“I had one in the first half where the defender just got there in time and you just have to keep being persistent.
“We had some good chances against Croatia but the goals will come, I’m sure of that. I believe in myself.
“We played well in the second half in Croatia and we created big opportunities. On another day they would have found the back of the net.
“Not to make excuses, but the pitch didn’t help either. It was like going back to playing on a playground because the pitch kept ripping up.
“But we played some really good stuff at times against a difficult opponent.”
Sterling enjoyed playing in Southgate’s new formation against Croatia, the back four has allowed England to get all three forwards – Sterling, Kane and Rashford – into the same line-up.
But Sterling says that Spain will provide the ultimate test in the Nations League as he stressed the importance of not finishing bottom in the Group.
Sterling added: “Oh, Spain are most definitely one of the best three teams in the world.
“The players they’ve got, the way they keep the ball, I don’t think there’s another national team that does that and they can really punish you if you’re not confident and don’t keep the ball.
“In the game against Spain, I’d say you have to try to stop them dominating the ball even though it is a tough task.
“You can’t give the ball away cheaply because they will make you run around to get it back.
“But I feel we had more freedom against Croatia. We tried to mix it up as well because it wasn’t always to feet, we made some runs in behind and probably on a better day, a better pitch, we could have really caused havoc.
“Having someone like Marcus in the front line is really helpful as well with his pace and ability on the ball. Hopefully against Spain we can make it work.”Add your comments:
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