Anticipation may be building ahead of England’s Euro 2020 clash with Scotland on Friday night – but for Raheem Sterling the fixture is just “another game”.
The Group D rivals meet at Wembley as England aim to follow up their win over Croatia with another three points, while Scotland look to recover from a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic.
While the match will have ramifications for the hopes of both nations and their respective aims at the finals, it is also a contest steeped in history.
From the first official international football fixture to Scotland fans scaling the goalposts after their famous Wembley win in 1977, Paul Gascoigne’s unforgettable Euro 96 goal and the closely-fought Euro 2000 play-off, meetings between the neighbours have always been memorable.
But Sterling, who scored the only goal of the game as England secured victory over Croatia on Sunday, is keen to live in the present.
“For me, it is going to be another game,” he told the Official England Podcast.
“Of course there is history but at the same time, 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.”
Sterling will be hoping his new regime can help with his concentration after revealing he has started meditating before going to bed at St George’s Park.
The Manchester City forward was the toast of Wembley following his first goal at a major tournament as he continued a fine run of form at a stadium just a stone’s throw from where he grew up.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) June 13, 2021
But it was his mother whom he left disappointed in the immediate aftermath of the win.
“Directly after the game, my mum first went on calling my phone when I was still in the dressing room,” he said.
“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 of course friends and my missus and some really nice messages.”
A positive start 👊
— England (@England) June 14, 2021
Despite a first ever win in the opening game of a European Championship, Sterling feels there is room for improvement.
Manager Gareth Southgate said his players “shouldn’t be football snobs” in exclusively trying to play out from the back, but Sterling believes it will be the way to go if England progress deeper into the competition.
“There is stuff from the Croatia game we know we can do better,” he added.
“From my own perspective, I think we could have kept the ball a bit better, I think we could have played out from the back a bit more because when you come up against France and Spain, teams like that, we can’t just give them back the ball because it will be a long time before we get the ball back.
“We’ve got to do what they are going to try and do to us, they are going to try and make us run, we have got to do that to teams and we are more than capable of doing that.
“I thought at times we could have played a little bit more, just keep the ball, keep them running, especially when it is a hot day and we have got the right players to do that.
“Yes, we played a good Croatia side but if we go into the last 16 you come up against these top national teams that have players who enjoy keeping the ball.
“We have the same players as well so it is just my thoughts. We went 1-0 up so of course we didn’t want to concede, but at the same time the best way not to concede is by not giving the opposition the ball.
“So the longer we can keep the ball, the better.”