Steven Gerrard predicts bright England future for Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling


Steven Gerrard predicts bright England future for Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling

However, England skipper Gerrard does not want too much pressure to be placed on the 17-year-old's shoulders so that he can be allowed to develop as a player.

Sterling is unlikely to feature against Ukraine after being called up along with Southampton captain Adam Lallana and Tottenham midfielder Jake Livermore.

The trio are there as cover in case England suffer any more withdrawals after Theo Walcott was ruled out through illness and Daniel Sturridge is laid low with stomach cramps.

But Gerrard has no doubts that his Reds team-mate will eventually step up on to the international stage as a fully fledged international.

Gerrard said: "He is a fantastic talent, one of the shining lights at our club this year, even though results haven't been good enough.

"It is great for him to be called up and get a feel for the senior group because it won't be too long before he becomes a regular in this group. He is that good.

"He is a mature 17 year old. There is nothing flash about him at all. He is a quiet kid. He works hard and listens and that is the key when you are that age and a good player.

"If you can listen and take advice from good managers and players, you will keep on progressing and improving.

"He is a breath of fresh air, especially for the older lads, with the pace and excitement he brings. He is a nightmare to mark for defenders."

But Gerrard also stressed: "Let's be patient with him. Let's not force it and expect too much too soon.

"Let it happen naturally and in time we will have a fantastic player for Liverpool and England.

"Of course, a lot more people follow the game, social media, and the impact of the Premier League is world wide. The expectations are high with young kids.

"It is different for the young lads now, there is a lot more pressure on them. It's important the people around them support them and give them the back-up they need.

"Just because you break into an England squad, or played a handful of games for your club, it doesn't mean you are the finished article.

"There is still so much improving and learning for these guys to do."

Livermore made his England debut against Italy in Berne last month but it is the first call-up for Sterling and Lallana.

England head coach Roy Hodgson said: "Their early performances for Southampton and Liverpool this year have been very impressive.

"Lallana is a player I've known about and watched even when Southampton were in the Championship because, as a club coach, he has been on the radar of players to watch and possibly attempt to buy.

"It is good he has confirmed what we have already thought, that he is a talent.

"With Raheem, in the past two years he has come on leaps and bounds and in the opening matches he has played this season, the reports on him have been very good.

"I shall make it clear to him that I am not bringing him with a view to necessarily playing him now.

"I'm bringing in more because there might be a time in the future when not only does he feature as a substitute, he might even be breaking his way into the team."

Gerrard knows England will have to be on top of their game against Ukraine as they look to follow up the 5-0 win in Moldova on Friday with another victory.

He concedes England were fortunate to win the Euro 2012 clash between the two countries in Donetsk.

Gerrard said: "We need to build on the Moldova game, try and improve and keep learning. The performance was positive on Friday but tomorrow will be a bigger test.

"They are a group of players who have played together for a long time. Technically they are very good. If you stand-off these players, they can hurt you.

"There were times in the Euros when we gave them too much respect and stood off them and they had a few dangerous opportunities to score.

"Over the 90 minutes they could feel hard done by not to have got at least a point.

"But we won the game, did what we needed to do, and hopefully we can get the same outcome tomorrow."

Gerrard will win his 98th cap tomorrow tonight and could now reach the 100 mark against San Marino next month in the same match as Ashley Cole, who is currently side-lined with an ankle injury.

He said: "That would be a nice touch for both of us. But the important focus is to get to the World Cup.

"Individual achievements are always nice along the way but I'm more interested in the points tomorrow night."