ENGLAND boss Roy Hodgson insists he has no qualms about selecting Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling despite admitting the ongoing furore surrounding his refusal to sign a new contract at Anfield is affecting his performances.
Sterling, who has rejected a deal worth £100,000 a week, failed to make an impact during England’s drab goalless draw against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium yesterday, while he was regularly booed by a section of supporters.
The 20-year-old was hauled off after 66 minutes and replaced by Tottenham winger Andros Townsend, and Hodgson admits that Sterling may need to toughen up given his stance at club level.
“He is going through a bad time publicly but I have no reservations about playing him,” said Hodgson. “He has done some fantastic things for us. Against Ireland he maybe did not hit those heights but it will take a lot before I and the English national team lose faith in him.
“I don’t think you can expect people to just shrug off the sort of criticism he has been receiving. He tries very hard to shrug it off and let his football do the talking.
“He probably needed this game to realise that if he is actually going to get it fully out of his system, he is going to have to work harder still, and he is going to have to get an even thicker skin than maybe he has got at the moment.”
The visitors failed to trouble Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood until skipper Wayne Rooney’s tame free-kick shortly before the hour mark, in what was the first match between the two sides in Dublin since the abandoned friendly in 1995.
Ireland fared little better with only substitute Jonathan Walters testing England stopper Joe Hart midway through the second period, although Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy wasted two presentable first-half openings.
Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, who was playing in English football’s eighth tier six years ago, made his international bow late on, but Hodgson’s match preparation for Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia ended in stalemate.