THERE is a sense of calm about Raheem Sterling — and a sense of destiny, too.
The Manchester City winger has been using nightly meditation sessions to block out the noise surrounding his club future and debate over his place in England’s starting line-up.
Raheem Sterling’s dream came true when he scored for England against Croatia
And after scoring England’s winner against Croatia at Wembley — 500 yards from the house where he grew up — Sterling is adamant that his first tournament goal was nothing more than he’d expected.
There had been a clamour for Gareth Southgate to axe Sterling in favour of Jack Grealish after a dodgy run of form for City — but the England boss stayed loyal and was repaid in style.
And Sterling sounds thoroughly chilled with life inside England’s camp.
He said: “I’ve been meditating. I’m doing a little bit of meds before I go to sleep to get relaxed.
“Just taking time out, being thankful and grateful for the day. Just trying to get connected. On the whole, not a lot of us get connected to our bodies and our brains so I am trying to get everything as one, connected, and be in a good place.”
And then there’s that idea that fate had decreed Sterling would score at his old boyhood manor.
He said: “It is something that I knew would happen, to be honest with you. I always had faith that I would do something with England at Wembley, score in a tournament.
“I have always dreamt of that and to actually, finally, say I’ve done it, that is a real dream come true.
“I used to come home from training when I was at QPR, the bus journey back home, walking to my house and seeing the stadium literally being built.
“It was like, ‘It is possible — one day I will play there’. And the more I started to achieve, the more I started to believe.”
Sterling had to snub his mum, Nadine, when she rang him in the dressing room after Sunday’s winner.
He said: “Directly after the game, my mum was calling my phone when I was still in the dressing room.
“I was like, ‘Listen, I haven’t got time at the minute, I will call you back when I am on the bus’.
“When I am in the dressing room, I’m getting a massage . . . I can’t be FaceTiming my mum at that point.
“I spoke to her for a little bit and then friends and my missus, and had some really nice messages.”
Sterling’s mum, Nadine, called Raheem after he scored the winner against Croatia
These Euros are Sterling’s fourth tournament and the City man is the most-capped player in Southgate’s squad, with 62 appearances.
And he says he is using his experience to stamp out any panic among England’s tournament rookies. Sterling, 26, said: “Going into games, I think the players that have been at tournaments before are probably used to what they are going into.
“It is about trying to get that calmness in the dressing room.
“And on the pitch as well. When there are little moments of panic, trying to be the one to get us calm and get us back into a place where we are focused on the game, that is what the players who have been to a few tournaments can help with.”
Sterling claims England have a better squad than that which reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup — “100 per cent, in every area.”
And he insists that competition from the likes of Grealish have sharpened his game.
He said: “Competition is good in any walk of life. In a job in an office, if you have someone breathing down your neck, you have got to do even better.
“At the same time it is healthy competition — there is no malice, no bad blood. Everyone wants the same objective: to do well for their country.”
Sterling is refusing to consider Friday’s battle with the Auld Enemy, Scotland, as anything other than just another match, despite the historic rivalry between the two nations.
He said: “For me, it is going to be another game.
“In football you can’t get too drawn into the history, you have got to be focused on the task ahead — and the task ahead is to get three points.
“We can’t be going in there fighting old battles, we’ve got to be really concentrated.”
Although Sterling did enjoy Patrik Schick’s 50-yard wondergoal against the Scots in their 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic on Monday.
He said: “The second goal was beautiful. A top finish.”
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