The duo have been subject to intense criticism throughout their careers, but could be set to take England to a World Cup Final
Brendan Rodgers has defended Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling on the eve of England’s World Cup semi-final with Croatia.
The duo have come under intense criticism seemingly throughout their careers – with Vinne Jones claiming Sterling would be playing for Exeter City if he did not have pace.
Although England beat Sweden 2-0 in their quarter-final on Saturday, fans picked on the Manchester City starlet for missing a gilt-edged chance in the first half.
However Rodgers, who managed the pair during his time as Liverpool boss, insists Sterling is ‘a top class player’ and is being picked by Gareth Southgate on merit.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “There is a reason every manager they work with picks them.
“I had a close relationship with Raheem at Liverpool and he is not judged on his performance, for some reason.
“This boy is fantastic.
“He is a top class player and knows the areas where he needs to improve – you can see how much he has over the last few years.
“His pace, personality and quality is massive for England. I know football is about opinion, but what these boys are bringing to England is great talent and energy.”
The Three Lions’ success in Russia has captured the hearts of English fans, with ‘Three Lions’ back in the charts and Gareth Southgate in the running for a knighthood, according to the bookies.
With Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar no longer competing in the tournament, the Celtic boss was quick to praise the togetherness and untiy of the young England squad.
“What is so encouraging is there is no ego in this England squad,” he continued.
“ A lot of guys have come through the lower levels and had to do the dirty work. Jordan was the same. Any successful team needs spirit.
“It has not been a World Cup of iconic individuals, it has been a World Cup where team spirit has dominated. Jordan Henderson typifies that.
“He is really selfless as a player and a guy, always wanting to help those around him. He builds respect around himself.”
When Steven Gerrard left Liverpool for LA Galaxy in 2015, Rodgers turned to his young central midfield partner to step up and assume the role of Reds captain.
After originally struggling to thrive, Henderson grew into the role of a leader and is now one of the first names on Gareth Southgates’ team sheet as a result.
And according to Rodgers, the Reds captain (who is a potential injury concern ahead of the semi-final) deserves every success he gets because of his incredible attitude professionalism.
“He always wanted to improve,” he added.
“He would do extra on the training field, working on set-pieces, practising the whip he could get on the ball where – as you can see now – he delivers it really well.
“Off the field he is super professional. I never saw him have a drink, or if I did he was never drinking much.
“It was always going to be difficult for the guy who took the Liverpool armband from Stevie. It was always going to take time. Jordan is his own character. He has really developed superbly as a captain and player.”
You can listen to live commentary of Croatia v England from Moscow on Wednesday, July 11 on talkSPORT from 7pm.
Source : TalkSport