World Cup 2014: Caution needs to be shown over expectation of England midfielder Raheem Sterling, claims John Barnes who fears a repeat of Theo Walcott experience

Walcott was selected for the 2006 World Cup at the age of 17 but failed to make an appearance and subsequently saw his career stutter

Former England international John Barnes believes the manner in which Theo Walcott's career stuttered after the 2006 World Cup highlights the importance of keeping the pressure off Liverpool teenager Raheem Sterling.

Sven Goran Eriksson's decision to select Walcott eight years ago shocked the football world, given the 17-year-old had not made a single first-team appearance for Arsenal let alone represent the Three Lions.

It was a tough experience that the winger - who misses this summer's tournament with a serious knee injury - has only started to recover from in recent years.

Barnes believes England should bear Walcott's struggles in mind this summer when it comes to 19-year-old Sterling, despite his fine campaign.

The former Liverpool winger has warned against heaping pressure on his fellow Jamaican-born dribbler, insisting he should be utilised with hope rather than expectation.

"He has got three England caps - we shouldn't put pressure on young players," Barnes, speaking on behalf of Vauxhall, the England Team Sponsor, told Press Association Sport.

 

"We shouldn't pin our hopes of winning the World Cup on one player. Only if he is a Lionel Messi, a Diego Maradona or a Cristiano Ronaldo should we do that, and Sterling isn't.

"So we can't put too much pressure on him. We did that with Theo Walcott when he was 17 and he went to the World Cup. And then he took many years to find his feet.

"We should look to the older players and say these are the reason why we are going to do well in a World Cup, and if the young players come on and do well it's a bonus.

"If young players have a lot of pressure on them going into a tournament and they don't do well, that can affect them.

"He has had a good last few months of the season. I expect him to go to the World Cup and do well but if he does, it will only be a bonus."

Barnes highlighted the importance of allowing Sterling to "be given time to develop slowly", knowing all too well that, like with all young players, his form "might take a dip".

The 19-year-old winger is one of several exciting young players included in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad, who are currently at a pre-tournament training camp in Portugal.

England's 23-man squad, along with standbys John Stones and Jon Flanagan, all trained at their Vale do Lobo base on Tuesday as they begin to prepare for the World Cup, where Barnes believes Hodgson's side can impress.

"If England can get through the group they have a great chance of getting to the quarter-finals," Barnes said.

"The last 16 is quite favourable in terms of the draw, but for me getting out of the group will be difficult.

"Uruguay are the favourites to win the group, in my opinion. If England get out of the group, anything else is a bonus."

Vauxhall is giving England fans the chance to "Enter the Lions Den" and send the team off in style to Brazil this summer. Win the chance to watch England train at St. George's Park on May 27th go to http://www.vauxhallfootball.co.uk/stgeorge

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