Gary Cahill believes England team-mate Raheem Sterling has conducted himself “fantastically” during a difficult week for the Manchester City star.
Sterling was headline news for the wrong reasons, firstly photographed with a tattoo of a gun on his right leg before it then emerged he arrived late for England’s training camp.
Manager Gareth Southgate kept faith in the 23-year-old and started him in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria at Wembley, where he laid on the second goal for captain Harry Kane after Cahill had headed England in front inside seven minutes.
There was another flashpoint involving Sterling as he was booked for diving in the second half, but Cahill believes the former Liverpool man has shown impressive character as he makes front and back-page headlines.
“It is to be expected but at the same time it would be nice if it was positive,” Cahill said of the stories regarding England players leading into a big tournament.
“Nevertheless, Raheem has been fantastic with it all, he manages that situation very, very well. Kept working hard, kept his focus and I think today you saw a performance that, apart from scoring a goal, he was very lively.
“So credit to him he has had to come over that but it is to be expected for whatever reason. I think first and foremost he has conducted himself fantastically well this week, he has managed that situation very well.
“He has come out today in front of a huge crowd and performed very well. He created quite a few chances… [there are] no issues, he played very well today, the lads are delighted and the goals are just around the corner for him I’m sure.”
Cahill also stood out as the Chelsea defender made his first England start since October. He was left out of Southgate’s squad for the friendly double-header in March but, after winning the FA Cup with Chelsea, Cahill enjoyed a strong end to the campaign.
He could yet force his way into the starting line-up for the World Cup opener against Tunisia and is setting his sights on playing a key role for England in Russia.
“You don’t come to spectate but at the same time you are part of the team, it is about taking the opportunity and I tried my best to take it,” he added.
“I felt like I played well and scored a goal but more importantly there are lots of positives for the team. It is a great group to be involved in, I feel I still have a lot to offer.”