Liverpool starlet Sterling: I want to prove I can play tournament football

The 18-year-old says that he is focused on winning a senior England call-up after injury ruled him out of the Under-21s European Championship and ended his breakout season
Liverpool starlet Raheem Sterling aims to win an England place next season in time for World Cup 2014, having been ruled out of this summer's squad for the Under-21s European Championship through injury.

The 18-year-old broke into the Reds starting XI early in 2012-13 and made his senior international debut under Roy Hodgson at just 17 but went on to make just eight club appearances after the New Year and a thigh injury in April ended his season prematurely.

The winger has kept his focus on representing the Three Lions, however, telling the Daily Mail: "I was really looking forward to playing in the Euros for the Under-21s. I wanted to show what I could do at that level and show the senior manager that I can play in tournament football.

"The injury is getting better. I'm around two months into my rehabilitation and I'm in over the summer and trying to make sure I'm fit and sharp for the start of pre-season.

"I might get about a week’s break, so it will be tough, but it will be worth it for the coming season."

With his England debut occurring in a November's 4-2 friendly defeat against Sweden rather than a competitive international, Sterling remains eligible to play for Jamaica but he remains determined to make an impact for the Three Lions.

"There's been a bit of doubt in the past but I'm definitely committed to England," he insisted. "I grew up in their youth system and I feel at home now. It's exciting to be part of the England set-up; we've got some great young players.

"As a young player growing up, you want to be playing for England. You want to push yourself to play. Hopefully in the coming season I can prove I can play at the top level.

"I know can still improve. I need to relax more on the pitch - I'm sure that will come with age and experience. I want to start contributing a lot more in terms of goals and assists but, as a young player, I just want to take it my stride.

"I don't get carried away with the hype. I just want to show people I'm a decent player. I try not to listen too much to what some people say. You can have good days, you can have bad days, so I just try to focus on my game and see what I can improve."

The youngster attracted less favourable attention when he was accused of assault in November but charges were dropped after a witness failed attend court earlier in May and he believes that he has learned from experience about life in the public eye.

Sterling commented: "As your profile gets bigger, the more public attraction you get and the more people try to take advantage of you. You have to know who you are talking to. As I grow up, I learn from my past. I just try to keep myself to myself and become more mature.

"When you haven't done anything wrong but you still have to go to court, it's something you don't want to hear. People try to portray me as a bad person but that isn't fair. I'm glad it's all over now."