England National Team: Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate puts the Sterling controversy to rest.
Gareth Southgate has defended the removal of Raheem Sterling from the match against Montenegro by England. Sterling had been the subject of a disturbance in the canteen of the team’s training centre at St. George's Park. According to the Daily Mail, the Manchester City striker reportedly tried to grab Liverpool defender Joe Gomez by the neck.
Explaining the matter at a press conference, Gareth Southgate said he is dealing with a very young team: “We are in a sport where emotions are often lively. Raheem explained last night in a post that his emotions had taken over for a brief moment. These things happen in football,” said Southgate.
"You must find a way to move forward. It takes time and the emotions calm down. We have excellent alumni who play an important role in bringing everyone together. You need to see a group where people are ready to move forward. My priority is always the well-being of all my players, all. Then you have a decision to make. You must decide if there is anything left to do. It was my decision for Raheem. Whether it's public or not, it would have been Wednesday or Thursday. I preferred to take care of it now."
Recounting on the details of this incident, Southgate confided that it is not for him to talk about the details of the incident. He stressed that in the end, he will have to find the best solution for the group and how the team has to work to move forward.
“It is a very difficult line. You must always be right. I made the decision and I think it was appropriate. Raheem is an important player for us but I thought it was the best decision (...) I'm not ready to go into details.”
Gareth added that there are enough opinions or discussions and there is no need to add more.
“I said that it seemed to me necessary to say it but we must look as much as possible in front of us...I talked with all my staff and the leaders of the group. But in the end, I am the manager and I make the decision,” he noted.
Southgate added that every player has the opportunity to talk to him if he wants to. He opined that everyone wanted to move on. He further said that it's important to be as fair as possible in all the decisions he makes, whether it's a senior player or a junior player.
"The decision was made not to count Raheem for Thursday's game and that's the end of the problem for me. The priority for me is to keep the group together if possible and as the emotions subsided yesterday, it was clearly a possibility. I am very impressed by the players, by the way they worked together," he said.
Following the incident, Sterling apologized on social networks: "First and foremost, everyone knows what the game means to me! Everyone knows that I am not like that. Joe and I, we quarreled, we understood, and we turned the page. We live in a sport where emotions are strong and I am mature enough to admit when emotions have taken over me. That's why we play this sport and we love it. Joe and I both realized it was just a 5-10 second story. It's over, let's move on and do not make it more important than it is. Let's focus on our Thursday match, "he posted on his Instagram account.
England will celebrate its 1000th game when they take on Montenegro, becoming the first nation to reach this milestone. They need only one point from their last two qualifiers to make it for the Euro 2020 finals.