Football

Jonny Boyle: In Defence of Raheem Sterling.. What Does He Owe Liverpool?

Jonny Boyle: In Defence of Raheem Sterling.. What Does He Owe Liverpool?

Tell me – what do you owe your employer?

What have they done for you that hard work hasn’t earned? Only a minority can say their bosses have gone above and beyond to make sure they were taken care of. The truth is we’re paid to do a job – and if we don’t do it, we’re out of work as soon as they can say no to a pay rise.

So, why is it unthinkable for Raheem Sterling to act like an employee and treat Liverpool like an employer? After all, that’s what they both truly are.

By Jonny Boyle – @beanroll

As far as I know, Sterling does not have the embedded love for the club which keeps so many homegrown talents around. He’s no Steven Gerrard.

And, correct me if I’m wrong, Sterling worked hard to find his way into the first team at Anfield and the England national team. It wasn’t handed to him. Moving cities is increasingly becoming the norm in society – especially in football – but that’s not to say it’s easy. Anyone who’s packed up and set off for the bright lights of a better future will know how difficult it is to leave what you know behind. At the age of 15 and with a £600,000 price tag on his head, it was no different for Sterling.

But it appears that only the unsympathetic and jealous have had their say on the 20-year-old attacker’s contract stand-off with Anfield bosses. If others are to be believed, Sterling’s sole reason for failing to extend his deal at the club is £100,000 per week not being ample enough reward for his services. If others are to be believed, Sterling is adamant he’s worth more – and there are plenty of other clubs ready to prove that. And if others are to be believed, the Jamaican-born English international is forcing his way out of the club after giving an exclusive, unauthorised interview to BBC last week in which he explained he’s no “money grabber” among other things.

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‘How dare he hold the club which gave him his big break in the game to ransom?’, ‘He’s not as good as he thinks anyway’ and ‘He’s just another greedy football player’ – those are all paraphrases of what I’ve heard from fans, players, former players, former managers and pundits since Sterling’s interview last week.

Yet the truth is – he’s not doing anything we wouldn’t do.

If you tell people you’d play for free then you’re lying to them and yourself. If you say you’d do it for the love of the club and use that as a stick to batter Sterling with then you’d be as well closing your browser now. If you don’t want to be the best you possibly can be working for the best people possible then it’s a lack of ambition. That’s not a criticism – it’s your life. Just like Sterling has one of his own too.

For me, he’s quite right to ask for what he believes he’s worth – and I’ve absolutely no doubt he’d do that whether he was an ASDA shelf stacker looking to move up the corporate ladder or Liverpool’s brightest young star.

What many forget is that he’s right to ask questions of the club’s ambition. He struck up a magnificent partnership with Luis Suarez last season, but saw the Uruguayan striker be sold to Barcelona in the summer. If Daniel Sturridge had replicated his 24-goal haul from last term this campaign then he’d inevitably be linked with a move to one of Europe’s genuine giants. And if the aforementioned Gerrard wasn’t a Liverpool fan, would he even have been around when Sterling broke into the first team after producing one superhuman performance after another in his peak?

Liverpool don’t have the pulling power they had in the 90s. They lost it in the 00s and, despite finishing second in the league last season, it theoretically looks like they’ll have to wait until the end of the 10s before they can boast at being a serious Premier League and Champions League contender.

So, why should Sterling be so quick to sign an extension at a club desperately trying to regain its place at the top of English football again? If he’s not being paid what he believes he’s worth (what the majority of the players he’s compared to at the top level are earning too), then why should he sign on? Those are legitimate questions Liverpool have to answer – not Sterling.

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Yet the biggest moral mishap lies with top clubs and not the players seriously thinking about their future in the game.

What about the hundreds of youngsters who don’t make the grade at Liverpool? Apply that to every top club. Where’s their loyalty to those players who have poured themselves into the dream of becoming a professional only to be cut at arguably the most important stage in their development with no real back-up? What about those young players who have been allowed to leave the club after suffering a serious injury? Do clubs always do the right thing by their players?

Or is it only the good ones who get the good treatment?

Clubs are free to cut hundreds of youth players every year and manage to move on without so much as a mention on their Twitter account. What gives clubs the right to play fast and loose with a person’s career when players are expected to hold this distorted sense of loyalty?

Sterling’s performances since making his first team debut in 2012 have quite rightly proven what he’s willing to do to make Liverpool great again. But if that wasn’t evidence enough then his display in their dismal 4-1 defeat to Arsenal at the weekend should be. He was the only real attacking threat on a day his side were woefully out-passed, out-fought and out-finished by the Gunners.

Criticise him when he’s stopped playing for the team, when he’s throwing his toys out of the pram or when he unfairly attacks his team-mates, manager, fans or club.

But, until then, remember he’s simply trying to get the best out of life. Just like the rest of us.

What’s your view – is Sterling right or wrong to stall over a new deal? Let us know in the comments below.

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