Raheem Sterling: England winger was 'brave', says psychologist

By Joe LynskeyBBC Sport
Roy Hodgson consoles Raheem Sterling in Tallinn
Roy Hodgson consoles Raheem Sterling in Tallinn

A sport psychologist has said Raheem Sterling made a "brave" decision to sit out England's Euro 2016 qualifying win over Estonia on Sunday.

Sterling, 19, has played more than 3,000 minutes of football in 2014.

The Liverpool midfielder was used as a substitute in the Group E match after telling boss Roy Hodgson he was tired.

"To see this athlete acknowledge he would struggle to make an impact is a very brave move," Birmingham University's Dr Jennifer Cumming said.

Sterling takes on a defender in England's 1-0 in Tallinn
Sterling came on as a 64th-minute substitute in England's 1-0 win in Tallinn

The chartered psychologist said it is rare for current players to admit to fatigue, and that getting players to speak about the strains of the game is an obstacle football has not tackled yet.

"Comparatively there are a lot of former players who are open to talking about these issues and their problems," she said.

"The more we break the stigmas of psychological stress and strain in sport being a weakness, the more we can send a really important message."

England manager Roy Hodgson
"He broke into the Liverpool team, had a fantastic season and then went to the World Cup. He is only 19-years-old."It is not as simple as the training you are having may be taking a bit of juice from your legs."There is an awful lot going on in your head as well, so perhaps it is quite simply that the season has not started as well for Liverpool, and he is in the spotlight for England and Liverpool. Maybe that has had some effect. I don't know. It's a theory."

Sterling came on in the 64th minute for club-mate Jordan Henderson. He was then fouled and the subsequent free-kick taken by captain Wayne Rooney proved the only goal of the game to maintain England's 100% record in the group.

The teenager has already been rested by club manager Brendan Rodgers for this season's Premier League match against Aston Villa in September.

And Dr Cumming believes coping with responsibilities for both club and country is a common factor in players developing emotional stress.

"Burnout is an ongoing problem that slowly accumulates," she said.

Raheem Sterling
Liverpool debut24 March 2012 (aged 17)
Senior England debut 14 November 2012 (aged 17)
Liverpool appearances (total)87 (15 goals)
England appearances (total)11
2014 minutes played (Liverpool)2,456
2014 minutes played (England)558
2014 minutes played (total) 3,014

"Training and playing in an international team is something we've seen contribute towards stress before in rugby players."

Only four players in the England squad have played more minutes of football than Sterling.

He has played 3,014 minutes for club and country this year. Only Jordan Henderson, Leighton Baines, Joe Hart and Gary Cahill have played more during the same period.

England players' minutes played (2014)
PlayerMinutes (club)Minutes (country)Minutes total
Gary Cahill3,2538944,147
Joe Hart2,6107953,405
Leighton Baines2,7896153,404
Jordan Henderson2,4577053,162
Raheem Sterling2,4565583,014
Source: Opta

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