Liverpool’s start to the Premier League season has not thrown up too many positives as, under new boss Brendan Rodgers, they have failed to win any of their first four games to break an unwelcome record stretching back just over 100 years.
However, one shining light amongst the early-season gloom at Anfield has been the impressive form of 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling, who has defied Premier League predictions to make a starting spot in the first team his own.
The teenager has long been tipped to go on to great things in the game but few could have predicted he would look so comfortable in the top flight so early on his career. So much so, that, along with summer signing Joe Allen, he has been the Reds’ best player in the early stages of the campaign.
Sterling, who was snatched away from QPR by Liverpool academy scouts in 2010, had impressed at virtually every youth level he played at and there had been calls from many who bet on sports to give him a chance in the senior side, despite his age, such was the obvious raw talent and pace he was displaying regularly for the reserves.
He was given a handful of brief substitute appearances last season under Kenny Dalglish but it has been Rodgers’ arrival which has seen the young winger really come to the fore with Sterling starting three of the Reds’ first four games after displacing experienced England international Stewart Downing in the side.
And he has not let his manager down with a series of fine displays, belying his tender age. Sterling has been Liverpool’s most dangerous provider in the final third against Manchester City, Arsenal and Sunderland, eclipsing even a below-par Steven Gerrard, and his jinking run and cross provided Luis Suarez with his goal in the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light last weekend.
So good has the youngster been that he was even called into the full England squad for the Ukraine game last week, bypassing the Under-21s in the process, and he is expected to go on to establish himself as a regular for the Three Lions over the next few years.
This, of course, is all providing he maintains his brilliant early form and keeps his place in a Liverpool side still adapting to Rodgers’ ways.
The early games of the season point to another difficult campaign ahead for the Reds overall and a quick look at the table, with Liverpool in 17th, proves the current side need to improve quickly after a disappointing start.
But it is not all doom and gloom and the emergence of Sterling – the most exciting academy graduate to come out of the club’s youth set-up since Gerrard way back in 1997-98 – proves that at least the future looks bright.