To say Raheem Sterling has had an interesting football career to date would be a huge understatement. Starting his career at QPR, Sterling arrive in Manchester via Liverpool, where he made a huge name for himself, before ultimately turning into the bad guy with his £50m move down the East Lancs.
His first season at City wasn’t exactly a successful one and he was barracked everywhere he went, even as far afield as Bournemouth, whose fans seemed to believe that he had moved to City for the money and not for the possibility of winning trophies. Throughout that season, Sterling showed only glimpses of the form that had catapulted him to the England setup. He scored 11 goals in 47 matches, which was still better than his 11 in 53 the previous season for Liverpool, but the media were already labelling him a flop and beginning to get on his back.
The following season under Pepe Guardiola, Sterling scored 10 goals in another 47 appearances, which further enhanced the picture the media was creating of him being an expensive flop. Stories were beginning to appear in the news about his life. England Failure, eating at Greggs, shopping at Poundland and Primark, travelling on EasyJet and having a dirty car or being a love rat all made the headlines at some point. The Sun branded him a ‘footie idiot,’ while in 2018, he had the audacity to eat breakfast out after missing out on the PFA Young Player of the Year award. And let’s not forget how Tired Raheem went to a party in 2014.
The absolute shame of it! Imagine a young lad going to a party!
In the 2017-18 season, Sterling let his football do the talking and scored 23 goals in 46 appearances as City waltzed their way to the Premier League title, but the media wouldn’t give up their tireless pursuit of the blues winger. The 2018 World Cup in Russia saw England reach the semi-final for the first time since 1990, but while the media revelled in the achievements of Gareth Southgate’s side, they continued to fuel the anger and hatred of opposing fans towards Sterling.
Before the tournament started, The Sun focussed on Sterling’s gun tattoo, which then lead to calls for him to have it removed. On match days Social Media, particularly Twitter, was awash with anger against the young winger. Continual calls for him to be replaced by Marcus Rashford (who fared no better than Sterling in all honesty) were made, mixed in with unacceptable racist abuse that has never had a place in the game.
Sterling was that tournament’s media scapegoat, the one who they blame for England failing. The media always focus on one person to take the flak for the national team wining nothing and this year’s recipient was the City man, which continued into the new season when it all suddenly changed.
And Sterling was the man to change it.
On a cold December day, City were losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge when Sterling went to take a corner. Caught on film were several Chelsea fans, verbally abusing the winger, which later turned out to be racial abuse It was then that Sterling decided enough was enough and took a stand.
Writing on Instagram, Sterling outright blamed the media for fuelling the racist abuse in the game and highlighted how the Daily Mail reported on two City players buying houses for their mothers. One was Tosin Adarabioyo, a young black defender and the over Phil Foden, a young white midfielder. Sterling highlighted the difference in the reports and “helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour.”
Suddenly, attitudes changed and England within a few months, Sterling was being lauded as a hero. His bravery at calling out the media was a pivotal and defining moment of his career. He had endured such disdain from the press and fans alike that it would have been easy for him to simply give up. But he carried on the feeling about him from the media changed from the negative attitudes to more positive reporting. There is no greater example of this change than Sterling being named as the Football Writers Player of the Year, having finished runner up to the PFA Player of the Year award.
But winning over the media seemed irrelevant to Sterling at this point; his words had had an effect and the brought the media down a peg or two. Now he seemed more focussed on making a difference at community level. After scoring 23 league and cup goals to help the blues successfully defend the Premier League and League Cup, Sterling paid for children from his former primary school near Wembley to attend the FA Cup Final against Watford. In normal circumstances, these children would never get the chance to see such an event, but Sterling wanted to give something back to those that had given him a chance. And he put in a superb performance in front of those kids, scoring two as City demolished the Hornets 6-0 to truly give them a day to remember.
Just a week ago, Sterling showed his class by stating he was happy that Liverpool won the Champions League. “I was really happy for them, happy for some of the players I know to lift the Champions League,” and despite scoring against his old club on Sunday in City’s Community Shield win, Sterling stayed behind to sign shirts, autographs and pose for selfies with Liverpool supporters at full time. How many players, continually booed by a certain set of supporters, do you see meeting with them after a match?
Raheem Sterling has been the mill, but is has come out on the other side so much stronger and is now regarded as one of the best, if not the best players in England. It is a testament to his character that he fought through the anger, the hatred to get to the top of his game.
If any youngsters want a role model to look up to, to see how it’s done, they should look no further than Raheem Sterling