RAHEEM STERLING received the royal seal of approval on Tuesday – now England fans should start treating him like royalty.
Shaun Wright-Phillips believes Sterling is underestimated by fans because he is judged unfairly against world-class forwards when he is actually a winger.
Manchester City star Sterling spent time with Prince William in the Caribbean earlier this week and will report for duty in England today.
He received permission from Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate to join his teammates a day later, having accepted the Duke of Cambridge’s personal invitation.
Sterling, who has Jamaican roots, found his chances at City limited on either side of last year’s summer break.
However, City boss Pep Guardiola began using him as a makeshift centre-forward following the departure of Sergio Aguero.
And Sterling, 27, has played his part in keeping City challenging on three fronts – scoring his 14th goal of the season in Sunday’s 4-1 FA Cup win at Southampton.
It’s a decent record considering he’s only started 24 games this season and had little experience playing at center before.
Former City star Wright-Phillips said: “Everyone says last year was a blip but people sometimes forget he’s young. They forget he is a winger who is now classified as a forward.
“His game has changed a lot under Pep and you can say that in some ways it has made him a lot better.
“He’s an elite player now and people just need to see that.”
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the former Liverpool man.
He started just three of City’s first 11 league games and scored just one goal.
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And then there was talk of Barcelona making a move for the absent star in January.
Sterling put his head down and was back on target in November – and he’s played his part in the champion’s trophy load.
But earlier this month he was left out of the starting XI for the Manchester derby and was also benched for the goalless draw at Crystal Palace in the team’s last Premier League game.
Wright-Phillips, 40, believes Sterling will still play a big part in what promises to be an exciting encounter.
SWP added, “Players have ups and downs. Even if he wasn’t exactly a player on form, he still got into positions and created chances.
“All that’s happened now is he’s doing the exact same thing.
“And he creates for himself, he wins penalties for the team and he scores goals.
“This is perfect and just the sterling that everyone knows and loves.”
The arrival of Jack Grealish for a British record £100million in the summer put Sterling’s future at the club in question.
But his Three Lions team-mate hasn’t had it easy either since he left Aston Villa youth club in search of cutlery.
Grealish has received plenty of opportunities from Guardiola – with 25 starts – but City fans are still waiting to see the best of him.
Critics were quick to lash out at him over the massive price tag – but Wright-Phillips has told him not to take heed of the criticism.
The former Chelsea man, who made a big move from City to Stamford Bridge before returning later in his career, said: “Don’t pay attention to what anyone says outside the game.
“Just listen to what Pep says. If Pep is happy, then keep it up.” And the same with compliments, yes.
“Of course it’s nice to hear compliments, but compliments can last up to 24 hours.
“There is one more game and opinions may change. If he’s told he’s fine, I think he just has to keep doing what the manager is asking him to do.”
Guardiola has previously told Grealish not to worry too much about the stats – and just four goals this season is a meager return.
But SWP agrees his performances have been better than the numbers suggest and insists goals and assists will flow over time. He added: “Obviously when you’re bought for £100m you’re in that elite category.
“But he comes from a team where he used to be on the ball all the time. He’s joined a star-studded City team who want the ball just as much as he does.
“Well, I think he’s fine. But he probably wants to give more and has the ability to do that.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/4954921/sterling-unfair-treatment-winger-not-striker-wright-philips/ Raheem Sterling is unfairly judged on his goals but he’s a winger, says Man City legend Shaun Wright-Phillips