Raheem Sterling's found himself as a first-team regular under Brendan Rodgers, and while his ascent been accelerated, he's quick to credit the influence of those around him, particularly the Liverpool captain.
Of the fair few rumors about Raheem Sterling, those reading John Cross' wide-ranging interview in the Mirror will be most disappointed to discover that the most popular isn't, in fact, true--the 18 year-old winger does in fact have a child, but that's the limit to his brood, and while that likely won't put a halt to jokes about super-human fertility, it does a little to dispel the myth that he's some sort of primadonna wildchild who's as familiar with contraception as he is with humility.
Overall it's an interesting read, as the player elaborates on his family life and difficult background, as well as his experience of coming into the first-team at Liverpool so quickly and the challenges he anticipates ahead of this weekend's visit to Old Trafford.
For some reason his quotes about Steven Gerrard stuck out, though:
"He has been brilliant for me. He's always looking after me, always checking to see if I'm alright. I've noticed as well that if anyone touches me on the pitch, he'll always get them straight back with a tackle!
"He's always looking after me, on the pitch, off the pitch. He looked after me when I first joined the club, got into the team and when I was looking for somewhere to live. He's an inspiration and a great captain."
The moment to which he's referring is one of my favorite of the season to date; Fabio came on during the second half of Liverpool's win at Loftus Road with one of the most pronounced I don't really give a shit what happens performances I've seen in some time, and along the way he clattered into Sterling. Earlier in the season Luis Suarez stuck his neck out for his younger teammate, but here it was Gerrard storming in from off-screen full of blood and thunder and vengeance in a match that was already well-decided, making a point to track down the poor excuse for a footballer that had wronged Raheem Sterling with his suffocating indifference and lack of elite-level motor skills.
So to read Sterling pick that out is a nice reminder of the types of things that Steven Gerrard does well, especially in a season when those moments haven't always been on display. Certainly over the past month and a half the captain's been much, much better, and I don't know if anyone would be surprised if he turned in another vintage performance against Manchester United on Sunday.
But while it's been easy enough to get excited about Raheem Sterling and what he'll bring to the club (hopefully) for years to come, it's not as easy to notice or recognize the impact of those around him. Maybe it's media speak and putting on airs, but in a season where Steven Gerrard's influence on the pitch has wavered and he's given us more reasons for frustration than usual, it's nice to consider that he's still able to have a positive effect in other areas, and that in this case it's on a player who's aware of the benefits he's reaping.