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Sterling a Scapegoat for England's Problems

The British press has made Sterling a scapegoat wrongly for all of England's failings. Perhaps had he stayed at Liverpool he'd have avoided these critiques?

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Leaving Liverpool has its consequences if you are an England International and want to curry favor with the Fleet Street-based media and football writers from across the country. That's the harsh lesson Raheem Sterling takes from the last year culminating with England's disastrous Euro 2016 campaign.

Sterling has become a convenient media scapegoat for England's continued troubles at the international level. His performance has been inconsistent but no worse than most other England field players. It was Sterling whose pace and diagonal runs opened up Russia's defense in the Group B opener and his ability to find space that put Wales on the defensive early in the second group game. Finishing while poor from Sterling was no better from any other England regular, and he did after all draw the penalty that put the Three Lions ahead briefly against Iceland in Monday's Round of 16 loss.

Without Sterling in the side, England could not break down Slovakia and despite having beaten Wales in the previous match, the Three Lions finished below the Welsh in Group B forcing a meeting with Iceland rather than the preferred matchup with Northern Ireland.

For years many in the British press have looked for easy targets and scapegoats after England crashes out of a major tournament. In this case, Sterling is at the top of the list. England based on its body of work in the last few years and its group performance should not have been installed as overwhelming favorites to defeat Iceland - who came through a much tough qualifying process and Euro group to reach the Round of 16. But since the English media largely looked past the opposition, salivating at a possible Quarterfinal date with France (I'm sure that would have ended well for England!) blame must be cast in several directions.

Since the Russia match, Sterling has been an easy target because his finishing touch is poor. But the reason he continues to feature in the side is his mazy runs, his blistering pace and his tactical/positioning sense which is superior to most English players.

But Sterling's greatest sin to bring this on might have been leaving Liverpool in the manner he did a year ago. None other than Jose Mourinho in December 2013 spoke of a Liverpool bias in the British press:

"There are lots of people on TV, but nobody is a Chelsea man. Carragher, Liverpool. Thompson, Liverpool. Redknapp, Liverpool. Neville, Manchester United. We don't have one. When I retire, 75 years old, I go as a pundit to defend Chelsea on television."

It is also true few are "Man City men," in the media that can balance out the narrative about the likes of Sterling. For the young English winger whose struggles are no worse than his Three Lions teammates, a lesson has perhaps been learned - leave Liverpool at your own peril when it comes to treatment in the media.