London – Steven Gerrard is confident Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling will become an England star after the teenage winger was called up for Tuesday's 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
Sterling will get his first taste of the international scene after England coach Roy Hodgson named the 17-year-old as a late addition to his squad for the Wembley clash following the withdrawal of sick Arsenal winger Theo Walcott.
After forcing his way into Liverpool's plans at the start of this season, Sterling, who joined the Reds from QPR in 2010, has already caught Hodgson's eye.
Given his lack of experience and the lateness of his call-up, Sterling is likely to have to settle for a place on the bench at best against Ukraine, but England captain Gerrard believes it won't be long before he is earning rave reviews for club and country.
“He is a fantastic talent, one of the shining lights at our club this year, even though results haven't been good enough,” Gerrard said on Monday.
“It is great for him to be called up and get a feel for the senior group because it won't be too long before he becomes a regular in this group. He is that good.
“He is a mature 17 year old. There is nothing flash about him at all. He is a quiet kid. He works hard and listens and that is the key when you are that age and a good player.
“If you can listen and take advice from good managers and players, you will keep on progressing and improving.
“He is a breath of fresh air, especially for the older lads, with the pace and excitement he brings. He is a nightmare to mark for defenders.”
Gerrard has been delighted with Jamaica-born Sterling's progress at Anfield over the last two years, but he warned his teammate not to get carried away by his meteoric rise.
“Let's be patient with him. Let's not force it and expect too much too soon,” Gerrard said.
“Let it happen naturally and in time we will have a fantastic player for Liverpool and England.
“Of course, a lot more people follow the game, social media, and the impact of the Premier League is world wide. The expectations are high with young kids.
“It is different for the young lads now, there is a lot more pressure on them. It's important the people around them support them and give them the back-up they need.”
Hodgson also emphasised that Sterling still has plenty to learn, but he admits the youngster will have to be considered for inclusion in the starting line-up if he keeps developing at his current rapid rate.
“With Raheem, in the past two years he has come on leaps and bounds and in the opening matches he has played this season, the reports on him have been very good,” Hodgson said.
“I'm bringing him in because there might be a time in the future when not only does he feature as a substitute, he might even be breaking his way into the team.”
Meanwhile, Gerrard has told his England teammates they must avoid complacency when they face Ukraine after opening their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 demolition of Moldova on Friday.
Ukraine pushed England hard in their last meeting, a 1-0 win for Hodgson's side in the Euro 2012 group stages, and Gerrard is expecting an equally tough test this time.
“We need to build on the Moldova game, try and improve and keep learning. The performance was positive on Friday but Ukraine will be a bigger test,” he said.
“They are a group of players who have played together for a long time. Technically they are very good. If you stand-off these players, they can hurt you.
“There were times in the Euros when we gave them too much respect and stood off them and they had a few dangerous opportunities to score.
“Over the 90 minutes they could feel hard done by not to have got at least a point.” – Sapa-AFP