Thursday, July 7

“I’m very proud of Raheem” ​​- Sterling’s former coach excited about England’s success | Raheem Sterling

In the shadow of Wembley Stadium, where Raheem Sterling reinforced his status as a national hero on Tuesday, his former school football coach was excited. “I can’t help but start to get better,” said Paul Lawrence, 61, head coach of the Ark Elvin Academy at Wembley, where the Manchester City and England striker first revealed his star quality at age 10.

“Last night I was very excited. I saw him at home because I wanted to fully focus on him. Obviously, like any fan, I’m going to get carried away by all the excitement of the game. But then the fact that Raheem scored again … That’s the third goal in four games. And seeing England act like they did, it was amazing. A great, great game. “

Sterling scored the opening goal as England beat fierce rivals Germany 2-0 in the European Championship on Tuesday night. They play their next match, the quarterfinals against Ukraine, in Rome on Saturday.

The 133-meter Wembley Arch looms over this neighborhood. Sterling got to see him and half of the nearby 90,000-seat Neeld Crescent Stadium, where he spent much of his childhood and from where he dreamed, he said earlier, of being “the king of Wembley someday.”

Street with Wembley Arch in the background.
The street where Sterling grew up, with the Wembley Arch in view. Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

He is a stone’s throw from the school, then called Copland Community School, in which he played in Years 7 and 8, in his freshman year, helping them reach two cup finals and claiming the man of the match award in one, where he scored. a hat-trick.

Sterling was never “ordinary,” recalled Lawrence, who also coached him at QPR, where he was on the youth team. “It was outstanding. From the first day I knew that I was going to be a professional footballer. It was all about him. He had the ability. It was very fast. He had the ability to hold off players who were much bigger than him. He was able to handle the inputs very well. And he was able to bear people hitting him, like being kicked and thrown all over the place. He would just get up, dust himself off, and move on. I still see those qualities now. “

Young Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling as a schoolboy. Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

Sterling, 26, is immensely proud of his Wembley roots. “I was from Wembley. I lived at Wembley. I lived on a farm for a month until my mother got a place at Wembley. From eight to 14 I lived at Wembley, ”he once said. He has a stadium tattoo on his arm.

Not far from his house there was a green, it is still there, where he played. “You come off the ground, you can look down the street and you can see Wembley Stadium up,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence has been a coach at the school for 29 years, as well as at QPR, Chelsea, Fulham and Charlton Athletic. He said his current students saw Sterling as an incredible role model. “He is one of yours. They are all from the same area, from the same origin. They know he’s down to earth. “

Today Sterling lives in Cheshire with his fiancee, Paige Milian, and their children, ages three and one. He also has a daughter from a previous relationship.

He takes time to return to Ark Elvin regularly. On one occasion he organized the delivery of 500 tickets to staff, students and parents for an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. In another, he came straight from an England friendly in Southampton, “and the shirt he was wearing for England, he literally took it off his back and gave it to us, and signed it, ‘To my favorite school in the world, Ark Academy Elvin ‘”Lawrence said.

Paul Lawrence
Paul Lawrence outside the Ark Elvin Academy. Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

“I am very proud of Raheem, to see him perform at Wembley,” he added. “It’s almost like his backyard to him. I know it feels like home there. He feels comfortable there. And he always seems to do very good performances there. “

And Lawrence gave his former prodigy some sage advice before the Ukraine game. “I would say, be even more fearless. Be even braver. Be bold and have people try to create opportunities. The more you face people, the more you encourage other players to give it a try.

“I think it will be easier to do that in Rome than at Wembley, because there are not many fans yelling at you if you accidentally give the ball away.”

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