England full-back Glen Johnson believes that a spell out of the Liverpool first team was the beginning of Raheem Sterling’s emergence as one of the Premier League’s in-form players.
The 19-year-old produced another high class performance against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, helping the Anfield club to a 4-0 victory that took them to the top of the league.
The twice-capped Three Lion has become a mainstay of Brendan Rodgers’ team since Christmas, but it comes only a year after the manager preserved Sterling by giving him a break from senior action.
“When he first burst onto the scene, everyone could see how good he could be”
The move was a masterstroke according to Reds team-mate Johnson who said: "He has been class. When he first burst onto the scene, everyone could see how good he could be.
"I know he had a couple of months where he wasn't in the team as much as he would have liked, but I think he has bounced back better for that.
"At the moment, he's probably one of the first names on the teamsheet."
Sterling made his England debut against Sweden back in November 2012, but he had to wait until last month to make his second appearance when he started against Denmark – a match that saw Johnson reach a half-century of caps.
As the World Cup in Brazil approaches, Johnson has backed the youngster to win a place in the squad and to win many more caps in the future.
“It's all kind of coming together at the right time for him," he continued. "If he keeps playing the way he is, he's definitely got a chance to be involved in the summer.
"I made my debut around a similar age as Raheem, but obviously I had a few years where I was in and out - so I didn't get as many caps as maybe I should have by now.
"But hopefully Raheem won't have that gap and I'm sure he'll go on and get more."
England face Peru on Friday 30 May in their final match at Wembley before the World Cup in Brazil. Tickets are available here.