England midfielder Jordan Henderson has urged fans and the media to get behind Raheem Sterling after he struggled in their World Cup opener against Tunisia.
Gareth Southgate’s men won 2-1 in Volgograd but it was a frustrating evening for Sterling, who endured a difficult outing and was ultimately replaced by Marcus Rashford.
A team sheet leaked on Thursday suggested the Manchester City winger could be dropped for England’s second match against Panama, with Rashford coming in from the start.
But Henderson – a former team-mate of Sterling’s at Liverpool – says onlookers must not dwell on the 23-year-old’s performance in the Tunisia match.
“I don’t think there should be any ‘noise’ around his performance the other night,” Henderson said.
“I would be surprised if that is the case, but it won’t bother him. He is used to the scrutiny now and I think he handles it all very well.
“He was phenomenal for Manchester City last season, scoring more than 20 goals, and I think everyone needs to get behind him if they are not.
“To score that many goals shows he is doing something right and if other players had the season he had I think we would be talking about it a lot more than we seem to do with Raheem.”
Sterling’s Manchester City colleague John Stones, meanwhile, is relishing his role at the centre of a three-man defence.
“I am enjoying myself. From that central position, it is good because I have so many options, I have the ball trying to set up things,” he commented.
“On the other side, I have a big role to be organising and make sure we don’t get counter-attacked.”