Phil Foden hails Raheem Sterling for bringing 'wow factor' to Manchester City
Teenager sings praises of teammate after England attacker's performance has home and away fans applauding in League Cup victory at Preston
The applause came from all four stands at Deepdale. As Raheem Sterling was substituted, a sizeable number of Preston fans joined the visitors in clapping off the goalscorer who was propelling Manchester City into the Carabao Cup fourth round.
Perhaps it was a sign of the greater respect Sterling is earning from neutrals. Maybe the oldest of those North End supporters treasure memories of Tom Finney, another winger who proved prolific in the No. 7 shirt and Preston’s greatest ever player.
One City fan of a younger generation had a close view of Sterling’s excellence. “Every time I watch him, I think, ‘wow,’” said Phil Foden, who made his first start of the season in a 3-0 win.
“He is a better player every time I see him and he has got a lot more to come and that is what is good about him.”
That wow factor, Foden feels, comes from Sterling’s surging runs. One brought City’s opener, with Sterling powering into the Preston box before his shot was deflected in.
“How he drives with the ball and goes past players,” said the 19-year-old. “When he gets the ball, I don’t even know what it is, he just glides past players and gets in the right places to score goals. He is always assisting.”
Sterling duly created City’s second goal, supplying a defence-splitting pass for Gabriel Jesus.
Sterling’s own strike ended what qualified as a drought, given how clinical he has become, of three matches in a City shirt. He nonetheless has nine goals in 10 games this season for club and country.
At half-time, one of Preston’s staff privately drew a comparison with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Sterling is entering the stage where it seems he will score every time he takes the field. “Yeah, I know Raheem and he has high standards and that is the level he has set,” added Foden. “You can see how well he plays every game.”
That consistency and commitment to improvement makes him an example for Foden. “He is a role model,” said the midfielder. “He helps me out a lot, in the game and in training, giving me tips. That is what is what a young lad coming through needs.”
Foden’s own progress has been delayed this season. He showed his quality with a crisp 20-yard shot that struck the bar but he had only played 11 minutes before completing the 90 at Deepdale.
A virus had ruled him out of victories against Shakhtar Donetsk and Watford, matches in which he may have featured. “I have had quite a bad stomach bug so I missed a couple of games but I feel well now,” he said.
If his bit-part role has brought comment from outsiders, there were no complaints from Foden. “It is my boyhood club and a dream to play for this club so any time I put the shirt on I just enjoy it to the max,” he said.
This was an unusual experience for him. Often the junior figure in City’s team, he ended up the fourth youngest. The 18-year-old substitute Adrian Bernabe came on, while the rookie centre-back partnership of Taylor Harwood-Bellis, 17, and Eric Garcia, 18, started. Pep Guardiola was impressed.
“I saw Taylor in China [on City’s pre-season tour] and I said: 'Wow, that guy has a good thing,'” he said. “He had a lot of quality and the leadership from Eric is really good.” Harwood-Bellis recorded a 93.3 percent pass completion rate while Garcia’s excellence on the ball was shown in the move that brought Jesus’ goal. Both looked assured.
“It is good to see Taylor make his debut and I am happy for him,” said Foden. “I think he was outstanding, as was Eric Garcia. You can tell there is a bit of a connection there from the youth team playing together. I think they handled it really well and helped each other out.”
Published: September 25, 2019 02:59 PM