Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has leapt to the defence of Raheem Sterling, but insists there is no club versus country row between him and England manager Roy Hodgson.
The 19-year-old forward has found himself pilloried in the last week after Hodgson revealed the youngster had told him he was tired ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier in Estonia.
Sterling was left out of the team for that match, coming off the bench to win the free-kick from which Wayne Rooney scored the only goal, which led to accusations he had said he did not want to play.
Rodgers totally rejected those accusations.
“I’ve obviously read and listened to a lot of what has been said,” said the Reds boss, who went out of his way to congratulate England on their two qualifying victories — something he said had been lost in the Sterling fall-out.
“He (Sterling) has been absolutely incredible for me and what has been nice to see is his maturity as a young man; he’s 19, a full international and he will hopefully be a key player for England and Liverpool for many years.
“This is a kid we bring up to be responsible and honest — lots of players will tell you they haven’t played when they haven’t felt right but this is a kid who didn’t say that.
“What he was saying was he felt tired. I’ve had it a number of times here with Raheem where he has been tired in his legs but he has gone on to play in games and be exceptional.
“What you do as a manager is take on board all the information from the specialists around you and you make your decision.
“You have to respect Roy’s decision that he decided not to play Sterling and play Adam Lallana.
“What has been disappointing in the whole affair is it has been grossly unfair how the kid has been put on the back pages for something he clearly did not say.
“For a couple of days it probably shook him a little bit but he was brilliant in training this morning.”
In addition to Hodgson making public Sterling’s comments, he also questioned Liverpool’s use of a 48-hour recovery programme for the likes of the youngster and striker Daniel Sturridge, who has not played for the club since sustaining a thigh injury in an international training session last month.
Hodgson said there was no evidence to suggest the two-day recovery plan worked but Rodgers defended his methods, although he stressed that did not mean he was at odds with England or any other country. The pair have exchanged messages about the situation but have yet to speak directly.
“Roy is a manager with great experience who has been around the game long enough, and all managers deal with situations differently. I am not here to make any comment on that,” Rodgers added.
“One thing to clear up is this second-day recovery: people are looking at it thinking Liverpool players are sat at home with their feet up on the couch.
“The recovery is different for each individual player but our second day of recovery is a technical session outside and the key in that session is the intensity and density of the session — the spaces are very small which still allows me to do the technical and tactical work required.
“That has worked for me right the way through my life and, in my time here, I believe helped Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, when he was here, to play the games they did.”
On a reported face-to-face meeting with Hodgson at Loftus Road tomorrow ahead of Liverpool’s match against QPR, Rodgers said: “Things have been written which are not true.
“We have exchanged messages but because of the busy schedules, we have not been able to speak. That is fine. From today onwards we want to put this to bed and move on.”
Meanwhile, QPR boss Harry Redknapp does not want any assurances over his position and insists he is not under pressure at Loftus Road.
The 67-year-old guided the Hoops back into the Premier League through the play-offs last year, but the side have struggled on their return to the top flight, sitting bottom of the Premier League with just four points from their opening seven games.
Former Stoke and Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis and ex-Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood could fill any vacancy if QPR owner Tony Fernandes decide a change is required. Redknapp, though, does not believe he job is under immediate threat.
When asked if he was feeling any pressure, Redknapp said: “None whatsoever. I don’t need assurances from anybody.
“It is up to Tony what he does. If he is not happy come and talk to me — I’m a big boy. I’m going for dinner with him tonight. I’m not going to be there buying him dinner to keep my job — I will let him buy dinner.”
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