The European Championships have just finished and a lot of English fans are disappointed about England losing in the final. Regardless of the loss, the tournament was very successful for the national team. There were many players stand out players for England, like Kyle Walker, Luke Shaw and Kalvin Philipps. But none shone quite like Raheem Sterling, the boy from Brent.
Sterling: Just a Boy From Brent
Is Raheem Sterling an English Legend Yet?
Sterling has constantly referred to him as just a boy from Brent whose dream was to play for the national team at Wembley.
Sterling has been involved in some sort of national setup ever since he was fourteen years old and it felt like his career in the three lions shirt was building up to this moment.
For someone who has grown up in the shadow of the famous Wembley, the boy from Brent made it his own playground during the European Championships.
Sterling Proves Euro Doubters Wrong
For many people, including me, Sterling was not in England’s starting eleven in the tournament. Especially after Pep Guardiola chose to drop him from Manchester City‘s squad at the end of the season. For many, the fear was that Sterling’s form had dipped at the wrong time.
While he was struggling to find form and time at the club, others were stepping up. Jack Grealish was already a fan favourite with his name being chanted every time he stepped onto the field or warmed up. Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden were the youngsters proving themselves in the toughest leagues in the world, while Sterling struggled to find his feet.
All in all, it would have been an easy decision for Gareth Southgate to drop him and start one of the others. But Southgate decided to keep faith in his man and boy did it pay off.
But right off the bat, Sterling was unstoppable. His darting runs into the Croatian defence set the tone for England. Later he would go on to score the winner in the second half. But it was not only his attacking qualities that impressed everyone watching. He dropped deeper and far more often than he might for the club and demanded the ball so he could turn and run at their defence.
Then against the Czech Republic, it was a more vintage performance from the 26-year old. He timed his runs wells and exploited the space between the centre and full-backs.
He then scored again against Germany, becoming the first English player to score the first three goals from open play.
But his best performance in the tournament came against Denmark in the semi-final. He was winning headers against defenders like Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen, guys who have at least five inches of height over him.
With the ball, he was asking questions of the Denmark defence and without the ball, he would dart into space and create opportunities to take a shot.
While the finish itself was not the cleanest, it was the way he made the space and took the shot is that matters.
He then even set up England’s equalizer, giving a brilliant pass to Saka running in from the opposite flank. When Grealish entered the fray, he was able to change his game and adapt to the change. What’s remarkable is that he did this for 120 minutes on that night.
While he may not have won the Euros for England, his performance in the tournament will be remembered for years to come. Yes, Sterling did not take England to the final all by himself, but England would have been toothless without him. While others gave moments of brilliance, Sterling shined throughout.
However, this tournament is not the only reason Sterling should be considered an English legend. It seems like yesterday when a teenage Sterling was chosen by Roy Hodgson to start for England in Brazil. There is a reason why, despite the plethora of young stars Gareth Southgate has in his squad, it is Sterling that he chose to stick with. It may not have come home, but it does not seem unreasonable to place him among the highest echelon of this national team’s great names.
It may not have come home for England, but it was the boy from Brent who dared to dream and fought against all hate to take his home country to the final. He may not fit the national hero profile, and hence was left out of the national headlines, but no one can tell him he has not written his name in the history books.
Raheem Sterling has put himself in the history books and will forever be remembered as an English hero for me and countless others.
Main Image Credit
Embed from Getty Images