MANAGER Roy Hodgson said he had no option but to rest Raheem Sterling for England’s win over Estonia because the Liverpool star was suffering from physical and mental tiredness.
Sterling was one of the few England players to emerge from the World Cup with his reputation enhanced.
But Hodgson only gave Sterling 45 minutes in Thursday’s win over San Marino and he started the teenager on the bench for last night’s 1-0 victory in Tallinn.
Hodgson revealed Sterling approached him at England’s training base in Hertfordshire the day before the Estonia match and complained of feeling tired. The England boss was then forced to pull the 19-year-old out of the starting XI, replacing him with Adam Lallana.
“We were just about to have a light session at the Grove and he said, ‘I feel tired and I don’t think I am in my best form at the moment’,” Hodgson said.
“I admire his honesty for telling me.
“It was two days after the San Marino game when we did a lot of running then because we had a lot of the ball.
“I had two players – one was telling me he is tired, a little bit jaded and the other is full of beans, so we put in the one on that is full of beans and left the other as sub.”
Sterling came on for Jordan Henderson in the 63rd minute, and did not impress too much as England struggled to record a victory that eventually came when captain Wayne Rooney scored from a free-kick.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers recently spoke about fears of burnout for Sterling, whom he rested for the 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa last month.
Hodgson was happy to rest the teenager for the win at the A Le Coq Arena, but he thinks the Reds boss should also consider giving the player a break so he can get back to his best.
When asked whether he, rather than Rodgers, should always be the one who rests Sterling to help him recover, Hodgson said: “I would hope not.
“I don’t think that’s fair. We do have to take players’ workload into consideration, and there are going to be times in top league teams where players suffer from some sort of physical and mental fatigue, but I think it’s a bit unfair if all the expectations to give the player a little bit of a break fall on my shoulders.
“He broke into the Liverpool team, had a fantastic season and then went to the World Cup. He is only a 19-year-old.
“It is not as simple as the training you are having may be taking a bit of juice from your legs.
“There is an awful lot going on in your head as well, so perhaps it is quite simply that the season has not started as well for Liverpool, he is in the spotlight for England and Liverpool... Maybe that has had some effect. I don’t know. It’s a theory.”
England missed Sterling’s pace and shooting ability yesterday as they failed to break down an Estonia team that played with 10 men for the final 43 minutes because of a red card for captain Ragnar Klavan. Hodgson’s men also fluffed chance after chance, with Rooney the main culprit.
Although he scored the winner with a dipping free-kick, the Manchester United captain should have taken three other chances to put the game beyond doubt.
“Wayne Rooney is a very self-critical person,” Hodgson said.
“He is happy to score the winning goal, but he knows he and his fellow forwards could have had so many more.”
Hodgson’s opposite number Magnus Pehrsson was surprised England looked so blunt in attack.
The Estonia coach said: “In the second half it felt as though England were not dangerous. I was surprised and quite happy they weren’t.”
Pehrsson believes his skipper was unlucky to be dismissed for fouls on Danny Welbeck and Fabian Delph either side of half-time.
“I disagree with the first yellow card. It was really harsh,” he said. “We played against England, but we didn’t get any help today.”
Match report: Page 2.