Silver Future For Liverpool As Raheem Sterling Lights Up FA Youth Cup
It is always possible to pinpoint a moment when a young player bursts into public consciousness. Pele winning the 1958 World Cup at 17. A 16 year-old Wayne Rooney beating David Seaman with a spectacular goal for Everton against Arsenal.
It might not be quite on the same scale, but Raheem Sterling might now have a moment of his own.
Sterling scored a remarkable five goals in Liverpool's 9-0 demolition of Southend in the FA Youth Cup Round of 16, including an incredible solo effort where he cut in from the left wing to score with a strike that is probably still rising over the Mersey.
The 16 year-old has already represented England at Under-16 and Under-17 level and it now seems it is only a matter of time before he makes the step up to Under-21.
Sterling is still a schoolboy, yet Liverpool has no qualms in paying QPR £300,000 for the winger when he was still 15. In doing so, the Reds secured a player that had been sought by Man Utd, Man City and Spurs - the investment is looking like a bargain after tonight's showing.
The rest of the Youth Team contributed well, including an eye-catching performance from England Under-17 captain Conor Coady, but Sterling will grab all the plaudits and the headlines.
Liverpool will now face either Manchester United or Newcastle in the quarter final and will be hoping to emulate their last success in the competition, when the youth side lifted the trophy in 2007.
Of that generation, only Jay Spearing has graduated to the first team, but Liverpool will certainly be hoping that Sterling will eventually make the jump to senior level.
Liverpool's Head of Fitness and Conditioning, Dan Burgess, wrote on Twitter, "Raheem Stirling [sic] hat trick comes as no surprise. Unbelievable skill and never looks out of place when he trains with the first team."
It surely bodes well for Sterling's future prospects that the coaching staff see his potential when training with the seniors and the backroom will surely look to promote the youngster through the ranks. Fans will be desperate for a glimpse of Sterling at a higher level, but Dalglish will be well served to keep his brightest young talent under wraps for now.
As is always the case with young players with big reputations, the key will be keeping expectations tempered and the media glare away for as long as possible.
It seems inevitable, though, that Sterling will be shining on a Premier League stage sooner rather than later.
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