The former England midfielder can sympathise with the Liverpool forward after receiving similar criticism during his time at Manchester United.
Aston Villa’s Kieran Richardson has revealed how he sympathises with the under-fire Raheem Sterling, telling the Daily Mirror that he expects the Liverpool star to move past his publicised off-field problems.
Sterling, 20, has come in for criticism this month for turning down a contract extension worth £100,000-per-week, per the BBC, while he has received additional flak over the past week after alleged photos of him emerged smoking a shisha pipe and inhaling nitrous oxide for recreational purposes, per the Sunday Mirror and The Sun.
Richardson himself faced scorn over his perceived attitude when coming up through the ranks at Manchester United but has since matured after moving on to spells with Sunderland, Fulham and now Villa.
Now aged 30, the midfielder admits he made similar mistakes at Sterling’s age but also believes that being at a high-profile club like United or Liverpool sometimes attracts unwarranted criticism.
Ahead of their meeting in the weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, he insists that detractors shouldn’t be so quick to judge the England forward and has backed him to continue fulfilling his enormous potential at Anfield.
“He is so young, he’s 20 – he is a baby still,” said Richardson. “He is still figuring out what he wants in life and what he likes. Playing for a high-profile club from a young age, you are more in the spotlight. When you have talent like his, people like to find negatives.
“But he scored against Newcastle [on Monday]. He’ll just keep his feet on the ground. ‘Focus on what you do best - your football’, that’s all I’d say to him. He has such great talent.”
On his own past problems, Richardson added: “I was a normal kid. I could have done things differently but everything is for a reason and I’m happy with the way my life has panned out.
“You play for one of the world’s biggest clubs and you might mix with the wrong crowd and go off the rails a bit. A lot of people go through it.
“I wasn’t a real party boy, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with going out with your mates as a young kid.”
Both Richardson and Sterling are in line to start Sunday afternoon’s FA Cup clash at Wembley Stadium, with the Villa man returning to the stadium for the first time since featuring in its opening match between England Under-21s and their Italian counterparts.