Search

From Brent to Brazil

13:00 08 June 2014

England

England's Raheem Sterling (pic: Stephen Pond/EMPICS)

EMPICS Sport

Raheem Sterling has made rapid rise to World Cup level

Raheem Sterling in action for Brent at the 2009 London Youth Games (pic: London Youth Games)Raheem Sterling in action for Brent at the 2009 London Youth Games (pic: London Youth Games)

He’s renowned for his speed – and it’s fair to say England winger Raheem Sterling has always been a player ahead of schedule.

Sterling featured in QPR’s reserve team at the age of just 14, became the second youngest player to represent Liverpool in the club’s history, and made his full England debut before he turned 18.

And his meteoric rise began even earlier, when he outclassed older players to such an extent that the man who was to play a key role in Sterling’s development had no idea just how youthful his young prodigy actually was.

Paul Lawrence, the football coach at Copland Community School in Wembley – just around the corner from the national stadium – recalls how Sterling’s sister Lakima, a student at the school, first brought the future England star to his attention.

Raheem Sterling shows off the winners trophy at the 2009 London Youth Games with Brent (pic: London Youth Games)Raheem Sterling shows off the winners trophy at the 2009 London Youth Games with Brent (pic: London Youth Games)

“She mentioned a few times that her brother was a really good player,” said Lawrence. “I asked her to bring him in when we had a training session for the Year sevens and eights.

“He ran rings around them, scored two goals and made loads of chances. I was so impressed with what I saw and asked her to make sure he came to our school.

“When the following September came around, I didn’t see him and I went and asked his sister where he was. She explained he wasn’t old enough to come to our school yet – I hadn’t realised he was two years younger than the boys he’d been playing against.

“He eventually came along next year. Straight away I put him into the Year seven team – and also the Year eight team, who won the Brent Cup, with Raheem scoring a hat-trick and making another two goals.

“He was so small for his age – and even now I think people tend to worry about him getting knocks and injuries, but he’s always had the talent to get out of bad tackles with his pace and change of direction.

“In every match, without fail, people would try and intimidate him, wind him up and foul him – and because he was so good they were prepared to sacrifice themselves just to put him out of the game.”

Sterling was soon selected to represent his borough at the London Youth Games in 2009 and captained Brent to the gold medal in the boys’ football tournament.

By then, he was also on the books at QPR, regularly ripping the heart out of defences at Under-18 level and broke into the reserve team before his 15th birthday.

Sterling’s growing reputation alerted several of English football’s big guns and it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature, paying an initial £500,000 to take the teenager to Anfield a few months later.

“We spoke about it a few times and obviously I was pleased with the fact he was at QPR,” added Lawrence. “But I didn’t think he would get the same opportunities and guidance by staying there.

“There was interest from a few other clubs but nothing concrete, whereas Liverpool made it clear that they wanted him as a player rather than just for his potential.

“If that move hadn’t happened, who knows whether he’d even be in the first team at QPR now? Being in that environment with Liverpool, where you’re trying to win the league, made a world of difference.”

Having made his senior debut for the Reds in March 2012, Sterling was soon drafted into the England squad and Lawrence, along with a number of Brent students, made the short trip to Wembley to watch his protégé in action.

And the coach has no doubts about the positive effect that Sterling’s startling progress has had on other aspiring young footballers in north-west London.

“Raheem’s been back to the school quite a few times since he left and he sees other ex-students in the area, just doing things that young people do like going shopping or out for a meal,” said Lawrence.

“He doesn’t come back and act like he’s living a different life. Loads of students from different schools have been to see him play – and some of them don’t usually play or even watch football.

“Young players around the area know they’re in the same position as he was a few years ago and feel they’ve got a chance to make something of their lives because they’ve seen what he’s done.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Yesterday, 12:00
Dawid Malan hits out for Middlesex. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Skipper Dawid Malan believes Middlesex’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign is gathering pace after they recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

Yesterday, 09:00
Harriet Dart

West Hampstead’s Harriet Dart admits she surprised herself with her performances after reaching the final round of the Wimbledon qualifiers and narrowly missing out on a place in the main draw.

Yesterday, 08:00
Marc Weatherstone leads by example by heading the ball away for Wingate & Finchley. Pic: Martin Addison

It is rare for an outgoing player to ring a number of the club’s fans to explain the decision, but Wingate & Finchley is no ordinary club.

Wed, 16:50
Middlesex's Toby Roland-Jones

It’s always great to see two young guys come together in a partnership like Nick Gubbins and Steve Eskinazi did this week against Lancashire.

Wed, 16:30
Kezie Ibe (centre) in action for Hendon (Pic: Derek Beech)

Hendon striker Kezie Ibe says the feeling of “unfinished business” played a crucial role in his decision to spurn offers from elsewhere and sign a new contract with the Greens.

Wed, 14:36
Left to right: Maddy Fairfull, Freya Gordon, Momo Daniel and Milly Whitmore Jones

South Hampstead junior school’s girls beat all of the boys to win gold at the London Schools ski race on the Welwyn dry slope.

Wed, 14:32
Touqeer Ahmad was one of only three South Hampstead batsmen to get into double figures. Pic: Paolo Minoli

South Hampstead suffered another bout of travel sickness on Saturday as an eight-wicket defeat at Brentham maintained their record of losing every game away from home so far this season.

Wed, 12:58
Arsenal's Asisat Oshoala

Arsenal Ladies boss Pedro Martinez Losa is backing Asisat Oshoala to be a long-term success despite a slow start to her Gunners career.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Copyright: Erich Spiegelhalter/Schwarzwald

Embark on a three day round trip (including flights) during which you will taste local specialities such as the famous Black Forest Gateau, discover nature, absorb vibrant city culture, learn about technological innovations, indulge yourself in the plentiful wellness spas, take some shots on the golf course, and enjoy family fun at Germany’s largest theme park.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe