Liverpool legend John Aldridge believes Raheem Sterling should be praised for asking to sit out England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia.
Manager Roy Hodgson left Sterling on the bench for Sunday’s 1-0 win in Tallinn after the Reds forward claimed he was tired, prompting a spate of criticism over his commitment to the Three Lions.
Aldridge stresses, however, that the 19-year-old made a brave move if he was feeling jaded, and believes it will ultimately benefit his flourishing career in the long run.
‘People might criticise Raheem Sterling for asking to sit out England's victory in Estonia on Sunday, but I think it was really brave of him,’ he wrote in his column for the International Business Times.
‘It wouldn't have happened in my day. If any of us, be it Beardsley, Barnes, myself or whoever, had felt like that, we'd have thought to ourselves "I'm knackered, but I'll play." And we wouldn't have played well.
‘Anyone who watches Liverpool will tell you that the last four games the lad's not been at his best,’ he continued. ‘He's not been at it, he's been jaded. The World Cup, coming after he did so well last season, took a lot out of him.
‘Don't forget he's only a young lad, a baby. People will ask how a professional footballer can be tired when the season's just started, and they've only just started the season, but don't forget the pressure Raheem Sterling is under every game, to be one of Liverpool's best players when most lads his ages are still finding their feet in the reserves.
‘It's a learning curve, and I think he's been very honest about how he's feeling.’
Sterling has featured in all of 10 of Liverpool's games so far this season, starting and finishing the last six, whilst also playing in international games against Norway and Switzerland before being withdrawn at half-time in last Thursday’s 5-0 win over San Marino at Wembley.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers was also questioned for starting the teenager on the bench for the club's 1-0 league defeat to Aston Villa at Anfield last month, but Aldridge insists the Northern Irishman has done a fantastic job with his development thus far.
'People will also be looking at Brendan Rodgers and asking whether he's overplaying Sterling,' he said. 'But don't forget when Rodgers left him out against Villa, and we got beaten, people were saying he should have been playing! You can't blame Rodgers for what's happened.
'Sterling's been a stand-out player since he was 15, playing in the under-21 side, and I think he's developed nicely, so Rodgers must take a lot of credit. At the start of last season Sterling wasn't good, but Rodgers stuck with him. Other managers would have dropped him last year, and set him back. But the manager's belief in him has paid dividends.'