Hodgson defends Sterling

England manager Roy Hodgson has urged critics to lay off embattled forward Raheem Sterling.

A concerned Roy Hodgson leapt to the defence of England youngster Raheem Sterling amid the player's escalating row with Liverpool.

Sterling's situation descended into chaos on Thursday after a meeting scheduled between the club and player for Friday was cancelled following an extraordinary outburst from agent Aidy Ward, who insisted his client - contracted until 2017 - would "definitely" not be signing a new deal at Anfield, even if he was offered £900,000 a week.

Sterling's relationship with the Premier League side appears beyond repair, as champions Chelsea and both Manchester clubs wait in the wings, while the 20-year-old was booed at Liverpool's awards ceremony on Tuesday.

But Hodgson, who included Sterling in his squads for international fixtures against Republic of Ireland (friendly on June 7) and Slovenia (Euro 2016 qualifier on June 13), told reporters: "I trust him implicitly. I think he's a very important person and a very important player for England going forward.

"I'll be very disappointed if he doesn't continue to kick on and get even better as he gets older.

"And I really do sympathise with these players who, if you like, have got to live their lives under scrutiny - sometimes of their making, sometimes of other people's making - and they've got to deal with it.

"I worry for all these young players, to be honest. They become stars very quickly. Their period of potential stardom doesn't last for very long these days. Sometimes, a few games in the Premier League and you are a star.

"We should never forget we're dealing with very young people. I believe from what I know of Raheem that he's strong enough to compartmentalise his life - from this side to what happens on the field of play, which is what interests me."