England should keep faith with Raheem Sterling to get the best out of captain Harry Kane once again in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden, according to former winger John Barnes.
Manchester City forward Sterling has found his position in the England team under scrutiny, having failed to replicate his goalscoring club form last season so far out in Russia.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate could decide make changes for the showdown against the Swedes in Samara – with Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford one option for the frontline.
Barnes – who won his first England cap aged 19 and went on to be part of the squad which reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and semi-finals of Italia 90 – believes “tricky” Sterling offers something different.
“You shouldn’t be putting a 23-year-old boy under pressure to win you the World Cup. Unfortunately for Raheem that has happened,” said Barnes told Press Association Sport.
“He doesn’t hide, he wants the ball all the time, is confident and is doing okay. He will come good.
“Raheem is never going to be an out-and-out goalscorer. He scored quite a few for Manchester City because of the way they play, but that is not what he is going to do (with England).
“He creates, he works hard and is tricky. He causes a lot of problems for the opposition and is well worth his place in the team.”
The former England winger added: “Maybe we would have more of a goal threat if (Marcus) Rashford plays, because he is more of a goalscorer, but then I don’t think you would get the best out of Harry Kane.”
Barnes, who started his career at Watford before moving to Liverpool and also later had a spell with Newcastle, feels the current England players will leave Russia better prepared for the challenges ahead.
“So far, England have done what they should have done, against the teams we have played. I am sure we are not getting carried away now that we are in the quarter-finals,” he said.
“Regardless of whether they go out against Sweden or go to the semi-finals, even the final, I would put more pressure on them to do better at the next World Cup or win it, when they have four years more experience. Anything past this now is a bonus.”
– Former England footballer John Barnes worked with Swedish retailer Clas Ohlson to create a parody version of his famous rap ahead of #EngSwe. From beer glasses to pillows to hide behind during penalties, Clas Ohlson has all the gear you need to enjoy the games. www.clasohlson.co.uk