Jordan Henderson has backed his England and Liverpool team-mate, Raheem Sterling, to ride out the storm surrounding his contract dispute.
Liverpool cancelled contract talks with Sterling during the final week of the season after his representative, Aidy Ward, allegedly told the London Evening Standard his client would not sign a new contract with the club even if they offered him £900,000 a week.
Raheem deals with the abuse so well. He doesn’t let it bother himJordan Henderson
The Liverpool fans in the home end of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin made their feelings about Sterling known on Sunday during England’s dull 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland.
The 20-year-old was booed every time he touched the ball and was substituted in the 65th minute following a poor display.
England manager Roy Hodgson is concerned the player is not tough enough to deal with the abuse he receives, but Henderson has no such doubts.
“He is so strong-minded, and it will make him a stronger person and make him better,” said Henderson, who won his 21st England cap in Dublin on Sunday. “He will concentrate on doing his best for the team. He did that today, trying to create things and get on the ball all the time. Hopefully, he can do the same next week.
“He deals with it (the abuse) very well. I don’t think he lets that bother him at all.”
Hodgson revealed his doubts about Sterling after the match. “I think he’s going through a bad time publicly. You can’t expect people just to shrug off the criticism he has been receiving.
“He does ever so well and tries well to shrug it off, let his football do the talking. He needed this game to realise that, if he is going to get it out of his system, he’s going to have to work harder still and get a thicker skin than he has at the moment.”
Sterling shot wide from inside the box in the second half and offered little to England’s attack throughout the game.
In fairness to the midfielder, he was not the only England player to put in a sub-par performance.
England mustered just three attempts on target and Wayne Rooney spurned a good chance to score when played through in the second half.
The whole match was so poor that broadcaster ITV was moved to apologise after it had ended.
The official ITV Football account tweeted following the final whistle: “Ireland 0-0 England. We’re sorry.”
The only crumb of comfort for Hodgson was that the England supporters heeded warnings to behave themselves in the stands.
Fifa had become concerned about the inflammatory anti-IRA chanting at recent England internationals, but, on Sunday, the 3,000 travelling fans behaved almost impeccably inside the Aviva Stadium.
“The atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the fans was a remarkable positive,” Hodgson said.
Only a handful of supporters sang “No surrender” during the national anthem, and they were drowned out by their fellow supporters in an act of self-policing. The Football Association said no England fans were arrested in the ground.
The squad flew back to England after the match, and the players will report for duty again tomorrow before flying to Slovenia for Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier.
Advice over team selection for that vital qualifier has not been short in supply, with the latest emanating from Paul Scholes, who believes Phil Jones should not be selected at centre-back as he is more effective in a full-back role.
The 23-year-old was rather surprisingly deployed as right-back, instead of Nathaniel Clyne, against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday. Jones was solid enough, although centre-back is the United defender’s preferred position – a role Scholes believes he is “not quite clever enough to do”.
The defender’s former team-mate believes he gets dragged out of position too easily, and reckons his pace, power and crossing ability makes him more effective as a full-back.
“People comment all the time about individuals,” Jones said when that was put to him. “Gone are the days when I used to take notice of what people say and react to it. It doesn’t bother me any more. I am at the stage now where I can’t be considered as a young player any more. I have got to step up, keep playing well and do what I do best.”
Right-back is the third different role Jones has been asked to play in as many games, having played in central defence against Lithuania and then pushed into midfield against Italy a few days later. “I was no Andrea Pirlo or something like that – do you know what I mean?” Jones said. “I could have told you that before the game.
“I can laugh about it now, but I try to do the job as best I can. I know I’m not an out-and-out midfielder who is going to get on the ball and start spraying it about. I know what I am good at and I try to stick to that.
“I have played in all three positions now and sometimes it can be difficult going from one position to the next, but I feel more comfortable at right-back.
“Obviously centre-back is where I want to be playing, but I was happy to play at right-back (against Ireland). You just play where you are asked to play.
“Some people think it is easy to just slot in there and everyone assumes that you have got to be up to speed straight away, but I was happy to play and it was a tough game.”