‘This is not the time to rest Sterling’

Roy Hodgson has no intention of resting Raheem Sterling for tomorrow’s game against Estonia, but the England manager insists he will give the Liverpool teenager a break in the future if he feels he is losing his match sharpness.

England's Raheem Sterling.

Sterling was one of the few players to emerge from England’s World Cup campaign with an enhanced reputation.

The winger is now regarded as one of Liverpool’s most exciting players and is also one of the first names on Hodgson’s team sheet.

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But the England manager, like his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers, is aware that Sterling is still just 19 years old and he aims to do everything he can to help the player deal with the pressure that comes with being a star for club and country.

“We are conscious of managing the situation,” Hodgson said.

“When he shows signs of not being quite as sharp, not doing as well, trying too hard, that might be the moment we think we have to manage this and give him a break.”

Although he made it clear he was not telling Hodgson how to do his job, Rodgers spoke of the likelihood that Sterling would need a rest at times this year.

The Liverpool manager has already done that once this season, naming the midfielder on the bench for the Reds’ home fixture against Aston Villa.

Rodgers said: “It is human nature there will come periods when they need the rest.

“I would think that Roy and his staff would have a look at things.”

Hodgson clearly agrees with the Northern Irishman, but he does not believe this weekend is the time to rest a player who has scored three goals in six Premier League starts.

“I don’t think the situation will need managing until he shows signs of suffering from it,” said Hodgson, who only gave Sterling 45 minutes in the 5-0 win over San Marino on Thursday night.

“But that is not the case at the moment and I don’t think Liverpool need to worry.

“In the first half against San Marino he was a lively as he could have been.

“At half-time I said ‘I am taking you two off’ (to Sterling and Jordan Henderson) and they looked at me like ‘don’t do that – we want to stay on’ and that is quite nice.”

Sterling was not the only man to impress Hodgson on Thursday night.

Andros Townsend got his reward for being “full of beans” in training all week when he banged in England’s fourth goal – albeit against the world’s worst international team.

Hodgson also praised Arsenal quintet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Calum Chambers for their efforts.

The average age of the starting line-up was 25 and not one player featured was over 30 years old.

Hodgson thinks he is starting to develop a very strong team which will be even better in a few years – even though he may not be around the England set-up then.

“This team is mostly 21 or 22,” the 67-year-old said. “And people will tell me people don’t reach their best until they are 27 or 28 realistically.

“I am enjoying the moment where they gain experience and they are providing a lot of things which give us a lot of satisfaction.

“It is something which has happened and I have been lucky enough to be there when it happened. And I suppose I am bright enough to realise that I don’t have to hang my hat on 30-year-olds if these guys are that good.”

England take on Estonia tomorrow just 72 hours after the win over San Marino, but Hodgson is sure his team will be ready for the test in Tallinn.

“We won’t have much turnaround time, but neither have Estonia,” Hodgson said.

“The result against San Marino was good and we have to make certain people are aware against Estonia that we must not let anything slip.”

Hodgson has warned England not to expect another walkover when they face Estonia in Tallinn.

England maintained their perfect start to Euro 2016 qualification with victory over San Marino. Although it was not quite the goal-fest some had predicted, the comprehensive win was never in doubt because of a complete lack of adventure from part-timers San Marino – the lowest-ranked team in the world.

Estonia are ranked 92nd in the world and, unlike San Marino, their players ply their trade professionally across Europe.

They went close to qualifying for the last European Championship – they lost in a play-off against the Republic of Ireland – so Hodgson is wary of the test they will pose.

“I would be a bit wary of putting Estonia in the same category as San Marino,” the England manager said.

“They might surprise people who haven’t seen a lot of them.”