England boss Gareth Southgate has announced Raheem Sterling is now part of his leadership group.
The 24-year-old Manchester City winger registered a first international hat-trick as the Three Lions began their Euro 2020 qualification with a comfortable 5-0 win over the Czech Republic at Wembley.
A Sterling performance: Five things to know…
- Sterling scored the first international hat-trick at Wembley since Jermain Defoe against Bulgaria in September 2010.
- Five of Sterling’s seven England goals have come in his last three games.
- Before netting against Spain in Betis last year he went 28 international appearances without a goal.
- Only Harry Kane (16) has scored more goals for England under Southgate than Sterling (5).
- And only Kane (6) has created more goals for England under Southgate than Sterling (4).
It was yet another display that illustrates Sterling’s newfound stature. Hotly tipped for big things as a youth player, and following his breakthrough at Liverpool, the Londoner has reached a new level under the tutelage of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Sterling following Guardiola’s arrival has become a consistent goal threat and he’s starting to bring that to England after going through a barren spell which elicited frustrations among supporters.
Now one of the first names on Southgate’s teamsheet Sterling’s maturation on and off the pitch has seen him earn a newfound role with the senior Three Lions team.
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“I’ve put him into the leadership group that we have,” he told reporters.
“I think he’s showing those signs, I think he’s a role model for the younger players coming in.
“He’s really focused on his training and his preparation and I think he’s enjoyed that extra responsibility as well.”
What is Southgate’s ‘leadership group’?
Gareth Southgate was appointed as England boss in September 2016, before getting the job full-time two months later, following a successful period guiding the U21s. His methods and the style of play he’s implemented has brought the feel-good factor back to the national team after years of indifference.
Southgate’s first stint culminated with England reaching their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, ending a 28-year wait. Since their Russian adventure, they’ve made the inaugural UEFA Nations League final four: a meeting with the Netherlands for a place in the final (against Portugal or Switzerland) awaits this summer.
Part of the success has been down to emboldening his players and giving some of them leadership roles with the aim to take the burden off a single player and share the responsibility of leading England around.
“We have this thing about ‘an England captain’, but really the captain is the person that is captain in the next game, isn’t it?,” he said in 2017.
“Always the danger in any sport with naming a ‘captain’ is selection. Always there is a danger with form or anything else that it becomes a matter of debate.
“I always just assume you pick a team for a game and the captain of that game is the captain. I think that’s why you need a leadership group.
“The key for me is how do we develop more leaders. There are moments in a game to go and grab it by the scruff of the neck and moments to step in. But there is nothing to stop other players from doing that.
“I get the bloke who pulls the armband on for match day is important, but in [Euro] ’96 it was just as important what Stuart Pearce was doing during the week, and Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham and Paul Ince as Tony Adams.
“In fact, it was David Platt who was captain at the start – Tony took over during the tournament. It is more the culture of the team that is set by the leaders in the group that I think is fundamental to us doing well.”