Southgate has been hugely encouraged by the winger’s maturity on and off the field as well as the drastic improvement in his finishing and tactical play.
Now he has to replicate for his country what he is doing for his club.
Remember, it was only 18 months ago that Sterling suffered vitriolic abuse from many England followers for the Euro 2016 flop under Roy Hodgson and some of his international performances since have not set the world alight.
Sterling’s career is on an upward trajectory, however, having developed a thick skin, ignored the criticism on social media, cut out the partying and reaping the benefits of pure hard graft on the training ground under Pep Guardiola’s demanding tutelage.
He started the season with a huge vote of confidence from Guardiola who told Arsene Wenger that there was “zero chance” of him taking the winger to Arsenal in exchange for Alexis Sanchez.
And Sterling has responded to Guardiola’s demands to utilise his talents to the full by scoring 13 goals for City this season, the latest being the last-gasp winner against Southampton.
City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who could well face Sterling in Russia next summer, puts the…