On Sunday 12th October England beat Estonia 1-0 with Raheem Sterling coming from the bench having told Roy Hodgson he was tired.
Friday October 10th was World Mental Health Day.
The only reason I mention this is because two days after the World celebrated how much more aware it is of mental health and people suggested that we stop stigmatising, telling people to man up, get over it, cheer up or perk up, we then see a barage of critiscism aimed at a 19 year old kid who admitted to feeling tired.
Now the natural assumption has been that it’s been the intensity and frequency of games that’s done it.
But what if it’s not? What if actually the pressure of being 19 years old and carrying a football club as demented as Liverpool on some talented shoulders is weighing a little heavily on a man who until recently had Luis Suarez to carry the pressure and burder of responsibility. Last season Suarez scored more than a goal a game, Sturridge was firing them in for fun and Gerrard was getting roughly one penalty every three games. Goals from Sterling were a bonus. A wonderful, match winning at times bonus, but a bonus none the less. Liverpool were the wild cards and Sterling, the unpredictable young talent was the wild card of wild cards.
This year he’s the go to guy. For England he’s one of probably four players who actually looks like he could beat a man. The other three being Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend. Again, there’s a pressure and an expectation.
At 19 I could barely deal with the pressure of turning up to work sober, if at all.
Wayne Rooney went into Euro 2004 with all that expectation and all that pressure and ended up stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s man parts, getting himself sent off and with him, any chance of England winning. Who knows what might have happened if Rooney had felt better mentally prepared?
What if the penalty takers of Shearer’s squads were a bit more honest and a bit less stiff upper lip? “Actually boss, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it as well, is anyone else feeling up for it?” David Batty didn’t look like a man who was going to score a penalty. He looked like a man who was prepared to do the brave thing and take one for the team.
This is of course all speculation, Sterling may just have felt physically tired, but it shows how far we still have to go if nobody is even considering the mental side of things, if all we can think to do is mock somebody for their honesty.