Raheem Sterling believes scoring his first tournament goal at Wembley was written in the stars. The Manchester City forward grew up round the corner from the ground and has a tattoo of the stadium’s arch on his left arm.
His performances in three previous tournaments have been widely criticised. He was vilified by some England fans following the dismal exit against Iceland at the last European Championship five years ago, with the match-winning strike his first goal in 13 matches since his surprise selection for the 2014 World Cup.
‘I always said to myself if I come here, growing up two minutes down the road, I know I have to score here,’ Sterling said. ‘It was a great feeling to actually do it. It’s great to break the duck. It’s a great feeling for me playing at Wembley, not far from where I grew up as a young boy and seeing the stadium get built.
Raheem Sterling believes scoring his first tournament goal at Wembley was written in the stars
‘I haven’t really taken into account that I haven’t scored in a major tournament before. It’s good to get on the scoresheet as I’m a person that’s hungry for goals, but at the same time I know the true value of a team.’
Sterling’s selection by Gareth Southgate was in doubt given he fell out of Manchester City’s starting line-up in the second half of the season.
But the manager never lost faith in a player he has now started in 31 successive matches for England when available in a run stretching back to 2017.
Gareth Southgate never lost his faith in Sterling despite his poor form and the trust was repaid
‘I’m so pleased for Raheem,’ said Southgate. ‘He was dangerous all game. His goal-scoring record suggests we should have faith in him and I think he was motivated to show that.
‘We’re going to need all our attacking players through the tournament. We can make changes and we will need to.’
Sterling insisted that he had been able to block out the external noise surrounding his form in the build-up to the tournament, but claimed he had been inspired by the 22,500 fans inside Wembley.
‘I think one of the things, playing football and being in a major tournament for a long time now, is knowing when to block noise out and that’s what I’ve done,’ he said.
Sterling was slotted through on goal by Kalvin Phillips and was then able to skew into the net
‘I’ve blocked the outside world off and just had to focus on coming into this tournament with a clear head, fully focused to help my team and that’s the most important thing. I know what I can bring to the team and it’s as simple as that.
‘I don’t know if it’s pressure in front of a home crowd. I think it’s an extra boost.
‘Coming from the hotel and seeing the fans is a great feeling and we’ve got to try to use it to our advantage.’
Source: Daily Mail