Ex England international: Stick Raheem Sterling in the Under-21s

An eight-time capped England international believes Liverpool star Raheem Sterling should be demoted to the U21s as it'll reap long-term benefits.

Former England international Kevin Phillips, believes the national team could stand to benefit in the long-term from Liverpool stand-out Raheem Sterling's inclusion in next summer's Under-21 European Championships because if Gareth Southgate's Young Lions perform well, then it could breed a winner's mentality for the future.

Capped eight times during his own playing career, Phillips believes the U21s can provide a great platform for promising players to progress into accomplished senior-level international athletes.

"Can eligible players 'outgrow' the England U21 set-up? That's a difficult question to answer – but one that was raised when the national team squads were announced on Thursday," reflected Leicester City first team coach Phillips to Sky Sports, as renowned names such as Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw accompanied other players like Foxes prospect Liam Moore.

"Playing for your country, no matter what level it is, is a great honour," said Phillips. "There’s nothing like pulling on that white shirt and Three Lions. It’s a great feeling and playing for England was the proudest moment of my career.

"For players such as Liam Moore, his England U21 call-up is a great reward for the performances he’s put in so far this season.

"The U21s is all about [being] a stepping stone to help young players understand how the national system works so they’re well prepared – on and off the pitch – for the full national team.

"That’s why I have no problem with players such as Chambers and Shaw moving down to the U21s, despite being in previous senior squads. These are young players still learning their trade and all these experiences will benefit them in the long run.

"The likes of Sterling, though, are an exception to that," he said.

 Premier League TeamFwd passCross accMins / key passAssistDribbles / gameTimes fouled / gameShot accGoalsAppsMins Played
Sterling Liverpool 31% 16% 40.64 6 4.51 2 49% 12 39 2,682

Since the start of last season, Sterling has recorded elite-level statistics as he provides a key pass once every 40 minutes he is on a Premier League pitch, attempts a dribble 4.5 times per game and has a shot accuracy that even Ian Rush would have been proud of.

"He’s been outstanding for Liverpool and did well for England at the World Cup. He’s a player we can’t overlook because we are lacking in that area; we need his creativity, whereas we do have defensive options other than Shaw and Chambers.

"What happens at the U21 Euros next summer, should England qualify. Should Southgate get Sterling and Wilshere involved to boost our chances of winning the tournament – or does he stand by the regular U21 squad?

"Sterling could end up playing a full 2015/16 season on the back of the U21 tournament before going on to Euro 2016 with England – when does he get a break?"

For Phillips, Sterling should compete at U21 and at senior level in order to a: continue his swift progression from wonderkid to accomplished superstar and b: best help secure a championship for an outfit so that many Young Lions can take a winning mentality with them into Hodgson's squad.

"If it was my call I’d have no problem with Sterling going to the U21 Euros," he said.

"Hopefully he would help the team do well, then, when that group of players comes up to the national team, they’ve won something and know how it feels to win something in international football."

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