Paul Ince believes England can emerge as dark horses to enjoy an extended run in this summer’s World Cup finals, if Raheem Sterling can deliver on his potential in Russia this summer.
Sterling has been pinpointed as England’s potential match-winner after he played a key role in Manchester City’s dominant Premier League title success over the last few months, with Paddy Power ambassador Ince convinced the 23-year-old can emerge as a star at the World Cup if he takes his chances in front of goal.
“He can be the major weapon for England at this World Cup,” Ince told Yahoo Sport. “He gives us something different. He is the only player who can beat a man, can frighten the opposition and you need that X Factor to make an impact in a tournament.
“We had it with Paul Gascoigne at the Euro 96 finals, when we so nearly won the competition, and with Michael Owen in 1998. That spark is vital to any team and Sterling needs to provide it for England this summer.
“Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli could be useful for England, but I look at what Sterling can offer and he can give teams a lot of problems.”
Sterling fired an impressive total of 18 Premier League goals for Manchester City in their title victory this season, but Ince suggests the winger needs to show a more clinical touch in front of goal if England are to challenge the top teams in the latter stages of the World Cup.
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“He scored a few good goals at City last season, but a lot of those were tap ins at the far post. That is a good thing for a winger, but I see him going through on goal at times and he lacks the killing touch you need in front of goal,” continued Ince.
“One area he needs to work on is his finishing and when he is away with England, I would encourage him to talk to Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy and tap into their knowledge of what to do in front of goal. He gets himself into so many great positions, but his decision making when a chance comes his way can leave a lot to be desired.
“The further you go in the tournament, the less chances England will create in front of goal. He may only get one chance against Germany, once chance against Brazil and he has to take it.”
Ince also believes his former England team-mate Gareth Southgate could be ready to defy his doubters and emerge as the ‘perfect’ leader in a new generation of the sport that he believes demands a different type of man management.
“I worked under Terry Venables at Euro 96 and Glenn Hoddle in the 1998 World Cup finals and both of them were fantastic managers who would have gone on to win major tournaments for England if they were not sacked for non-footballing reasons.
“English managers tend to do well with English teams and that is why I was delighted when Southy got the job. He is the ideal man to lead the modern clutch of footballers because you need to be sensible in the way you handle players these days.
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“Players don’t respond to managers who lead with an iron fist these days and we are seeing that with Jose Mourinho at United.
“People think Southy is a bit soft because of the way he speaks in interviews, but he has a tough side to him and I have seen that when I played with him. It may be easier for someone with his temperament to manage these players as we don’t have big personalities like Tony Adams, Ian Wright, Alan Shearer or me in that dressing room at the moment.
“These players need a bit of guidance and I think Southy will have a relationship with them that gives him a chance to get the best out of them.
It is nice to have an Englishman back in charge. Someone who is proud of our country, who will sing the national anthem and it means something to him. That is what you want from a national team manager and I wish him all the best this summer.”
Paul Ince is an ambassador for Paddy Power and will be a guest on Paddy’s Boat Party which will be broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the World Cup. Follow the journey throughout the World Cup.