England captain impressed by young winger's recent form
England captain Steven Gerrard has hailed the sensational impact of youngster Raheem Sterling, who he believes can go "all the way to the top".
The Liverpool skipper watched on as the 17-year-old winger became the Reds' second-youngest scorer in the Premier League after Michael Owen with the only goal - his first senior one for the club - in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Reading at Anfield.
And Gerrard has admitted he has been pleasantly surprised by the England Under-21 starlet's progress and development at the Merseyside club this season.
He said: "I think he has been a great surprise to everyone, not that he is doing so well at this level but I don't think anyone expected him to break through so early.
"I think we all knew he was going to be good enough to play for the first team but when they are young and small and that size, sometimes you need to take a little bit of extra care.
"They used to get a taste towards the end of the season but the manager has come in, seen what he has done in pre-season and said he is ready now.
"He hasn't let anyone down and he's been sensational so far."
Sterling, who has played for England at U16, U17 and U19 level in recent years, joined Gerrard in Roy Hodgson's senior squad as a late replacement for the game with Ukraine last month when he was an un-used substitute at Wembley, just a stone's throw from where he grew up in north London.
He was then part of Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad who beat Serbia over two legs last week to confirm their place in next summer's Euro Finals in Israel.
And if he continues the form he has shown so far this season, his skipper believes he can become a real star both in the Premier League and on the international scene.
"First and foremost he has the trust of the manager," added Gerrard. "He is the one who picks the team and week in, week out he is getting a start.
"That is what you need when you break through, you need the manager to believe in you because sometimes it is hard to play well every game.
"When you don't play well, the manager keeps playing you and he's telling you that you are ready for this level, you're going to be around for a long time so get out and do your stuff and that is what he did against Reading.
"If he can add assists and goals to his game the more he grows he can go all the way to the top."
Sterling, who joined Liverpool as a 15-year-old from QPR, expressed his thoughts about his first senior Liverpool goal on Twitter, saying: "Great day for me and my family to score for such a big club. One of the happiest days of my life."