• Raheem Sterling put in a jaded performance against the Republic of Ireland
  • Liverpool and England starlet Sterling looks a shadow of his former self 
  • Andros Townsend replaced Sterling in the 66th minute during friendly
  • Sterling was kept under control by Stoke defender Marc Wilson 
  • READ: England manager Roy Hodgson says Sterling needs ‘thicker skin’

Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail

Raheem Sterling seized the ball and the air crackled with anticipation. From a long way inside his own half, he danced through tackles and slid a nerveless finish into the bottom corner before turning to flash a smile at defenders sprawling in his wake.

This was Miami, around this time last year. Dublin was a different matter but more of that later.

It was in the World Cup training camp where Sterling imposed himself on Roy Hodgson and convinced England’s manager to shift Wayne Rooney to the left wing in the opener against Italy.

Raheem Sterling struggled to impress for the Three Lions during friendly match against the Republic of Ireland

Raheem Sterling struggled to impress for the Three Lions during friendly match against the Republic of Ireland

Sterling has failed to replicate the form he previously showed when he burst on to the international scene 

Sterling has failed to replicate the form he previously showed when he burst on to the international scene 

England national team boss Roy Hodgson shakes Sterling's hand after substituting the Liverpool starlet 

England national team boss Roy Hodgson shakes Sterling’s hand after substituting the Liverpool starlet 

Sterling’s form was such that it demanded a place in the heart of the team, and by the time the Euro 2016 campaign started in Switzerland in September, Hodgson had introduced a midfield diamond designed with him in mind.

This was to be the way ahead but in the Emerald Isle, the diamond was discarded, as it increasingly has been since Sterling’s influence has faded. If he was too tired in Estonia, he looked exhausted in Dublin.

Sterling flickered without end product, comfortably policed by Marc Wilson, a bit-part central defender at Stoke doing a decent job at left back for his country.

To top it all, he became a target for terrace abuse. Forty thousand Irish fans jeered his every touch, taking particular issue when they suspected he was milking an accidental boot in the face by Robbie Brady early in the game and again when he performed a desperate dive in search of a penalty in the second half.

This mood was reinforced by a strong Liverpool connection in the Irish capital and a reaction to his clear intention to get out of Anfield as soon as possible.

They were still jeering when Sterling was replaced by Andros Townsend and Hodgson accepted that the club contract squabble — he has rejected a new five-year deal worth £100,000 a week — was preying on the forward’s mind.

A year after re-shaping his plans to suit Sterling, Hodgson will spend the week mulling over whether to drop him for Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia.

Theo Walcott is fresher and in better form, as is Townsend, who came on and scored an equaliser in Italy and almost performed the impossible here by threatening to resurrect a lifeless game. Sterling, in his 60th game of the season, was not the only one jaded and flat.

Sterling was substituted after 66 minutes in the encounter, with Andros Townsend replacing him

Sterling was substituted after 66 minutes in the encounter, with Andros Townsend replacing him

Sterling was booed from start to finish as England  drew with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin

Sterling was booed from start to finish as England drew with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin

Few moments stirred the soul beyond the good-natured exchanges between rival fans who united in applause for Jack Charlton before the kick-off. England supporters teased the home crowd with: ‘Sepp Blatter, he paid for your ground’. The humour helped wash away any lingering animosity from the riot at this venue 20 years ago.

Lansdowne Road is these days the swanky Aviva Stadium, a sweeping space-age arena with an atmosphere to match at times, with rows of empty seats and long silences during a game disrupted by 11 second-half substitutions.

Coming just a few hours after the Champions League final, it offered a sobering comparison between the international game and elite club competition. There were times when Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling made the Republic’s Ipswich Town strike-force appear almost as dangerous as Barcelona’s.

Captain Rooney, in pursuit of the England goal record, applied a touch so leaden-footed to a pass from Jordan Henderson that the ball simply dribbled away to goalkeeper Keiren Westwood. But it was Sterling’s performance that generated the greatest concern. ‘You have to feel for Sterling a bit,’ said pundit Paul Scholes on ITV. 

Sterling takes on  Ireland's Robbie Brady as England but failed to inspire his team in a dull performance

Sterling takes on Ireland’s Robbie Brady as England but failed to inspire his team in a dull performance

Sterling is tended to by the England medical staff after taking a knock on his right ankle in Dublin

Sterling is tended to by the England medical staff after taking a knock on his right ankle in Dublin

‘This is a lad, six months ago, he could beat any defender in the world. He has great skill, great pace and he just looks like his confidence is shot to pieces.’

At 20, Sterling has the look of a fragile individual being corralled into a transfer by an agent seemingly motivated by greed. 

He has been overhyped in his teenage years by a media craving slivers of hope after a poor World Cup and overplayed by Liverpool, also desperate for positive signs. Under such pressure, the dancing feet are not moving as freely and the infectious smile is flashed less readily.

Those who know Sterling insist he can handle it and focus on his football, but it might be for the best if Hodgson takes the initiative and leaves him out in Slovenia.

It would give him the time to sort out his club future and return, hopefully refreshed, for the new season.

England are not blessed with such a wealth of young talent that they can afford this career to twist out of control.

Hodgson said that he will have no hesitation in using Sterling for the qualifier against Slovenia next Saturday

Hodgson said that he will have no hesitation in using Sterling for the qualifier against Slovenia next Saturday

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