On Sunday England maintained their perfect start to qualification for the upcoming European Championships with a 1-0 win over Estonia, though headlines have been dominated with talk of Roy Hodgson’s response to Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, who claimed to be fatigued in the run up to the game.
Replaced in the starting line-up by teammate Adam Lallana, Sterling came off the bench in the 64th minute, later winning the free kick that culminated in Rooney powering home England’s only goal.
Talk over Sterling’s physical fitness has opened doors to questions over refining training techniques, while attention might be paid to individualising approaches in international sides and opening doors to the outside influences of domestic clubs. Young players are often over-exerted, and increased care over their condition has the potential to revitalise form and prolong careers. Similarly, with players occasionally kept from certain international games (often friendlies) by wary managers, increasing the dialogue between international and domestic coaches may minimise these eventualities and decrease risk for players; Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge incurred a pulled groin which has left him sidelined for over a month, which might have been prevented had recommendations made by Liverpool’s medical team been adhered to.
A significant question, however, is to what extent the fatigue alluded to by Sterling is of a physical nature and a mental nature. Resulting from his stellar form last season, there are mounting expectations placed on the shoulders of the player, who it is important to remember is only 19 years of age. Considered so vital a component of both his international and domestic squads, his assertions of fatigue (which he stated to be regarding both his physical and mental state) might yield improvements in the counselling provided by both Liverpool, already ahead of many other top flight clubs in developing this area of services for players, and prompt similar services to be offered by the international camp.
Physical fatigue, though, might offer opportunities within the England setup. With questions over the possibility of increased rotation coming into the fold, chances might be given to England’s impressive young lions, all of whom had great successes in their recent youth games for the national side. England’s Under 21s continued their good form under Gareth Southgate with a 2-1 victory over Croatia’s U21s. A goal from Harry Kane furthers his cause for an increased role in Tottenham’s forward line, while a late penalty from Saido Berahino ensured the win as the West Brom striker continues to impress. Already a mainstay in the Baggies first team, Berahino’s outstanding performances – he is currently joint-second top scorer in the Premier League, alongside the likes of Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero – have led to talk of a call up to the senior international team. There do, however, appear to be attempts by the U21s to form a cohesive unit in the same manner as Germany did with their World Cup winning international team, with big names featuring for the youth side; £34 million man Luke Shaw featured at left back, while Calum Chambers was similarly intended to run out for the U21s until he was called up as a replacement for Hodgson’s England.
Meanwhile, England U20s ran out 3-2 victors as they came back from a 2-1 deficit to win out over Holland’s impressive U20 side. Aided by a brace from Arsenal starlet Chuba Akpom, manager Aidy Boothroyd’s side have won the first two fixtures of the Four Nations Cup. Finally, the U19s scored a decisive victory with an 8-0 win over Luxembourg U19s, with doubles for Patrick Roberts (a standout in Fulham’s first team), Ruben Loftus-Creek and Brandon Parker. Supported by goals from Charlie Colkett and Bradley Fewster, England U19s have now scored 11 without conceding.
As talk surrounding both Hodgson and Sterling continues, the ramifications of Sterling’s request might yet be felt in both international and domestic football, creating opportunities for some and, more significantly, support for others.
How might coaches refine their approaches to fitness, both in terms of physical condition and player mentality?