Men's Team

'Sterling a nightmare for defenders to face' says Vassell

'Sterling a nightmare for defenders to face' says Vassell
Former City forward Darius Vassell says Raheem Sterling in full flow is a defender’s nightmare.

Though the England star didn’t score in the 2-0 win against Brentford, he won the penalty that broke the deadlock and was heavily involved in the goal that settled the encounter in the second-half.

Vassell believes Sterling’s versatility in a front three makes it almost impossible to anticipate what he will do and his speed makes him difficult to stop.

“If you talk to defenders, he’s one of the players you’d hate to play against every game,” said Vassell.

“He brings so much to the table. He can also play in any of the front three positions and can move around which is a nightmare for defenders.”

Trevor Sinclair, another of the guests on Matchday Live, believes Sterling’s grounding and attitude is exemplary and it is the hard work off the pitch that has made him one of the most exciting players in Europe over the past decade.

Indeed, the 27 year-old – now in his seventh season with City - has already clocked up 321 appearances and scored 123 goals for the Club.

“He’s a reflection of his upbringing,” said Sinclair.

“He was in London, with a working class background and has had to show resilience and put the hours in.

“He was very small, but he’s found away. I’d say if you’ve got it in you, winners find a way and he’s done exactly that.

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“But the foundation of that success is the way he trains. Every manager he’s worked for says the same thing, if he’s had a bad game he doesn’t go hiding, he’ll be there putting the work in the next day at training.”

Vassell agreed, adding that Raheem is a role model for fellow professionals and youngsters alike.

“The key to success is how you handle adversity and he’s got used to it,” he said.

“He’s grounded and has set a stall out as to how he’s going to play and train.

“He’s now a real role model that players look up to and want to be like.

“He’s flying that flag really well and long may that continue. It’s a long journey, but he’s reaping the rewards and so are the City fans.”

Vassell believes Riyad Mahrez’s excellence from the penalty spot this season means Sterling’s tally of nine goals might have been several more had he been the designated taker.

In December 2020, Sterling became the first player to be fouled in the box and earn 20 Premier League penalties, and it was his burst into the box against Brentford that resulted in another vital spot-kick being awarded

“It’s an instinctive thing for a striker, once you get the hang of it they do start rolling in,” said Vassell.

“You're winning penalties and you grab the ball and put it in yourself and your tally goes up, that’s how he gets to the next level.

“He gets in so many times and causes so many problems in and around the area, if he had that ice cold finish at the end of it that’d be the icing on the cake.”

Sinclair believes experience helped him become more relaxed in front to goal as his career progressed and expects Sterling will do the same.

“When I was younger I’d get a bit tense or excited in front of goal, but as you get experience, you just compose yourself, slow everything down around you and pick out your finishes better," he said.

“Raheem is still a relatively young player so if he continues to improve and work hard on the training pitch, he’s going to be a world beater.”

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