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Thursday 8 December 2016

'Raheem Sterling is strong enough to put up with the abuse,' reveals Jordan Henderson after boos at the Aviva

England's Raheem Sterling in action
England's Raheem Sterling in action

Jordan Henderson has backed his England and Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling to ride out the storm surrounding his contract dispute.

Liverpool cancelled contract talks with Sterling during the final week of the season after his representative Aidy Ward allegedly told the London Evening Standard his client would not sign a new contract with the club even if they offered him £900,000 a week.

The Liverpool fans in the home end of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin made their feelings about Sterling known on Sunday during England's dull 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old was booed every time he touched the ball and was substituted in the 65th minute following a poor display.

Roy Hodgson is concerned the player is not tough enough to deal with the abuse he receives, but Henderson has no such doubts.

"He is so strong-minded, and it will make him a stronger person and make him better," said Henderson, who won his 21st England cap in Dublin on Sunday.

"He will concentrate on doing his best for the team. He did that today, trying to create things and get on the ball all the time. Hopefully he can do the same next week.

"He deals with it (the abuse) very well. I don't think he lets that bother him at all."

The England manager revealed his doubts about Sterling after the match.

"I think he's going through a bad time publicly," Hodgson said. "You can't expect people just to shrug off the criticism he has been receiving.

"He does ever so well and tries well to shrug it off, let his football do the talking. He needed this game to realise that, if he is going to get it out of his system, he's going to have work harder still and get a thicker skin than he has at the moment."

Sterling shot wide from inside the box in the second half and offered little to England's attack throughout the game.

In fairness to the midfielder, he was not the only England player to put in a sub-par performance.

England mustered just three attempts on target all match and Wayne Rooney spurned a good chance to score when played through in the second half.

The whole match was so poor that broadcaster ITV was moved to apologise after it had ended.

The official ITV Football account tweeted following the final whistle: "Ireland 0-0 England. We're sorry."

The only crumb of comfort for Hodgson was that the England supporters heeded warnings to behave themselves in the stands.

FIFA had become concerned about the inflammatory anti-IRA chanting at recent England internationals, but on Sunday, the 3,000 travelling fans behaved almost impeccably inside the Aviva Stadium.

"The atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the fans was a remarkable positive," Hodgson said.

Only a handful of supporters sang "No surrender" during the national anthem, and they were drowned out by their fellow supporters in an act of self-policing.

The Football Association said no England fans were arrested in the ground.

The squad flew back to England after the match. They players will report for duty again on Wednesday before flying to Slovenia for Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifier.

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