September 13, 2014. Four games into the new season and Liverpool find themselves in a familiar position, trailing at home to Aston Villa. An hour gone and the toothless Reds are directionless, purposeless and lacking in attacking penetration. It’s the first signs of the trouble ahead, the death of last season’s direct football that reaped 101 goals, 52 of them shared between the absent strikeforce of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Brendan Rodgers shuffles his pack, replacing summer signing Adam Lallana with the 19-year-old Raheem Sterling. Fresh from an impressive end to the season, a strong showing at the World Cup and a dazzling performance at White Hart Lane before the international break, the young prodigy is set to continue his upward trajectory, and Anfield is ready and expectant. As he enters the pitch the roar is deafening and the young England international is awarded a standing ovation; this is the Kop anointing its new hero.
It was a great show of faith for a teenager, but an awful amount of pressure to heap on the shoulders of one so young. This season Sterling has played like that pressure has weighed him down, too much for someone so young to bear such responsibility. His form has deteriorated as the season has gone on, yet he has started more games than any outfield other than Jordan Henderson.