Brendan Rodgers defends Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe
Last Updated: 18/04/15 2:53pm
Brendan Rodgers called for a sense of perspective after a week when Liverpool duo Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe made the newspapers for their alleged off-field activities.
Sterling made the front and back pages of the newspapers this week after footage appeared of him apparently inhaling nitrous oxide along with images of the 20-year-old with a shisha pipe.
The striker then made the headlines on Monday for the all right reasons after he scored the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Newcastle.
However, Sterling was back in the papers again on Wednesday along with 19-year-old Ibe and a shisha pipe in pictures which were reportedly taken in September.
Nitrous oxide, which is also known as ‘hippy crack’, and shisha pipes are not illegal, but Rodgers confirmed he has talked with the pair regarding their off-field behaviour.
"I spoke to both players and they are fully aware of what has happened – and then we talked about football," Rodgers said.
"I think both young players are aware of their responsibilities. All you can do is continually educate them. It is (about) perspective as well. If you look at Raheem he didn't do anything illegal.
"It was something he will look back on in years to come and it probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.
"But for me it is all about the welfare of the two young players; making them aware of the health issues which come with that and also about the professionalism and what they are representing.
"They will make mistakes, whether it is those two or other young players.
I spoke to both players and they are fully aware of what has happened - and then we talked about football
"In the main young footballers are good people, they do a lot of things which go unnoticed. Sometimes they get caught out but that is just youth and learning.
"We talk of players as being role models but I think the best role models in your life are parents and guardians – but we are not perfect either, we make mistakes.
"We learn and if we have to do that when we are older in life then certainly young players will do that and they need support in that."
Sterling will start Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa on Sunday but Ibe is cup-tied having previously played in the competition while on loan at Derby.
Defender Martin Skrtel will return after a three-match suspension but there is greater debate over whether captain Steven Gerrard, also returning from a ban but with just 27 minutes of football behind him since February 10 because of injury, should start at Wembley.
The 34-year-old was given a run-out in a practice match earlier this week and Rodgers confirmed the midfielder, whose last match for the club before he leaves for Los Angeles Galaxy could potentially be the FA Cup final on May 30, is fit.
"He is definitely ready. We played a behind-closed-doors game here on Monday in which he and a few of the other players who have been out played in," added the Reds boss.
"Steven is fine. The most important thing is his availability. He is a special footballer and Wembley is somewhere he knows very well.
"Whether he plays or doesn't play he will be an important member of the squad for us on the day.
I was aware of the findings and obviously the study, I was shocked to be honest when I saw that.
Brendan Rodgers on recent Kick It Out research
"Throughout his time he has been an incredible player who, in the main, has always produced big goals and big moments in the big games."
Striker Daniel Sturridge is a major doubt with a hip injury which forced him to miss Monday's win over Newcastle.
"We will give Dan every possibility to be fit and we will see how he is tomorrow and take it from there.”
Rodgers also admitted he was shocked by research which revealed Mario Balotelli is the most abused player on social media.
The survey by anti-discrimination body Kick It Out found that the Italy international had received over 4,000 posts containing racist abuse while team-mate Sturridge was sent around 1,600.
“I was aware of the findings and obviously the study, I was shocked to be honest when I saw that,” added Rodgers. “I think one (abusive) message is one message too many to be honest.
“I think it is something that we support all the relevant organisations that are working to stamp all of this type of thing out.”