The acronym for Liverpool's forward line is in need of an upgrade. The SAS, (Luis) Suarez and (Daniel) Sturridge, have been joined by another S in Raheem Sterling. This afternoon at the Emirates 3S, SSS, or maybe S Club 3, will seek to repeat last weekend's Premier League demolition of Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Following their efforts closely will be Roy Hodgson, for all three players could be on the pitch when England meet Uruguay in Sao Paulo on 19 June, albeit not all on the same side. The England manager is delighted by Sterling's re-emergence at Liverpool, and hopes it will be followed by a sustained impact at international level.
Sterling had only 13 League appearances behind him when Hodgson capped the then 17-year-old in the November 2012 friendly with Sweden best remembered for Zlatan Ibrahimovic's four-goal salvo. Sterling was one of six debutants, and like the others – Ryan Shawcross, Leon Osman, Wilfried Zaha, Steven Caulker and Carl Jenkinson – then dropped off the international radar. In Sterling's case it was because he lost his club place, his form perhaps affected by his being overplayed in his first senior season.
There were also some off-field distractions, but Sterling is back in the Liverpool team and again showing the pace and trickery which first caught the eye.
"When we played in the game to open the stadium in Stockholm he had burst into the Liverpool team and was doing fantastically well," said Hodgson. "Then he lost his place for a while and almost disappeared off the scene. I remember an Under-21 game when I was very impressed with him but he still hadn't quite got back into the Liverpool team. But since he's been back his form seems to be going up and up and up."
With Theo Walcott injured the return to form of Sterling, is, said Hodgson, welcome; he noted Walcott has missed more internationals under him than he has started, largely due to injuries.
It was Walcott's absence earlier this season that opened the door for Andros Townsend's dramatic arrival on the international scene. The Tottenham flyer and Sterling, said Hodgson, were just two of many contenders on the flanks.
"We're not short of candidates," he said. "The Under-21 team is awash with wide players. Zaha is back in the frame because he's playing football at Cardiff after his time out; [Nathan] Redmond is at Norwich doing very, very well. There's [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Lennon still there. Adam Johnson is another one.
"We really don't rule anyone else as such. [Johnson] has not been selected [recently] because we think we've got others and others have taken precedence – it's not because we have anything against him, far from it."
There is also Tom Ince, now playing regularly in the top flight with Crystal Palace, plus Adam Lallana, who made an impres-sive start to his international career, and Danny Welbeck, who often plays in wide positions for England.
"It's going to be a choice at the end of the day, how many of that type of player do I want to include in the squad and in which case, which ones?
"We have competition in the wide areas, right and left, but doing as well as Raheem is in a top, top team puts a lot of pressure on everybody else, because if you can do at the top of the table with Liverpool then you can do it in an England shirt."
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