Raheem Sterling wants to feel the love from England fans ahead of the World Cup as he sets his sights on replicating his Manchester City form on the international stage.
Sterling has never had the smoothest relationship with supporters of the national side, memorably dubbing himself ‘the hated one’ in an Instagram post during Euro 2016.
The 23-year-old has clearly felt the jeers more keenly than the cheers during his international career but he has appealed for the England faithful to rally behind both him and the team before they take on the world in Russia.
Wembley will get the chance to respond during the friendly against Italy tonight (kick-off 8pm) and Sterling believes an uplifting show of support would lift the side immeasurably.
“I feel sometimes there’s a bit too much negativity. I would love to hear some positive notes going in, just to make the boys know that everyone’s behind them,” Sterling said.
“We know what we can do, I believe what we can do, it’s just having that support and that backing...you know, feel loved.”
Reflecting on his difficult experiences in France two years ago, he said: “As young boy, I was 20-21...around that age, I didn’t think I was being treated right.
“There was a lot of talk, a lot of pressure, I didn’t think I was being spoken about in a fair manner.”
He is now thriving under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola, enjoying the mos t productive season of his career with 20 goals in all competitions.
By contrast he has struck just twice in 36 caps for his country and not since October 2015.
Sterling admits that is a poor return on his ability and is eager to put things right.
“I should be scoring a lot more for England,” he said.
“It will be a matter of time. I do have that feeling that it is going to come soon.”
Sterling has become something of a last-gasp specialist at City, hitting a series of important late goals, and jokingly bemoaned Gareth Southgate’s reluctance to leave him on the field for the full 90 minutes.
He completed just one of his seven qualifying appearances in the last campaign, substituted four times and coming from the bench twice, but he has clearly played his way into a key role under Guardiola’s guidance.
“You can see the confidence in him,” said Southgate.
“That’s not necessarily because he’s technically better, he’s just thinking about the types of finishes a little bit more. Not snatching at things, passing into the net. More confident. More composed.”
Southgate’s players only have one more chance to prove their World Cup worth, but the England manager insists Jack Wilshere’s absence against Italy is not necessarily the death knell for his hopes of heading to Russia.
England head into tonight’s match buoyed by Friday’s promising 1-0 win in the Netherlands and Southgate plans to make changes against the Azzurri in a bid to firm up World Cup options that are already taking shape.
The Three Lions boss has given 44 different players caps since taking charge in September 2016 — including the now-retired Wayne Rooney — and only injury prevented Wilshere becoming the 45th in Amsterdam.
Tendinopathy in the Arsenal midfielder’s knee denied him a first appearance since the Euro 2016 exit to Iceland and dents rather than dashes his World Cup hopes.
“I don’t think it’s too late for anybody,” Southgate said.
“It’s obviously more difficult because there’s a couple of guys who have been in squads but haven’t had the chance to play for us.
“But we’ll still be monitoring everybody between now and the end of the season because there’s probably 31, 32 players that would be in contention and none of us know what will happen in the next eight to 10 weeks.”
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