Gareth Southgate insists removing Raheem Sterling from England duty was the right course of action after providing more details of the feud that erupted between the Man City man and the Man City attacker.
Sterling reportedly grabbed Joe Gomez by the throat in the England canteen, and has since apologised for the situation in which he admits he “let emotions get the better of me”.
The Manchester City forward will not be considered for England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday after the altercation, which spilled over following Sunday’s confrontation at Anfield when Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners over City.
Southgate offered an opening statement to the assembled media in which he reiterated Sterling’s admission that he had become heated. In doing so Southgate appeared to absolve Gomez.
“Raheem in his post last night explained for a very brief moment his emotions ran over. It would be correct to say that’s not the same for Joe,” Southgate said.
“We are dealing with a very young squad in a sport where emotions often run high. These things happen in football. My priority is always the care and well being of all my players. All my players.
“Then you have a decision to make as to whether there needs to be something further, which is my reasoning for not selecting Raheem for the game on Thursday.”
Asked if he was disappointed in Sterling’s conduct, Southgate took a conciliatory tone and did not add harsh words to his decision to withdraw the Manchester City man from the match.
“I love all of my players. We are like a family and all family have disagreements,” he said.
“Most important for any family is to come through those disagreements and work through them. I don’t expect as a manager to never have to deal with things that are unexpected or difficult.
“It’s part and parcel of the job and part and parcel of working with elite players. Our focus now is to move forward.”
Southgate made a point of steering clear of details – praising senior players in the round rather than Jordan Henderson in particular, following reports the Liverpool captain played a central role as peacemaker.
He also refused to speak about the apparent scratch under Gomez’s eye.
Joe Gomez has been left with a scratch over his right eye, apparently as a result of the clash with Raheem Sterling.
— TEAMtalk (@TEAMtalk) November 12, 2019
“The reality is, I’m not prepared to go into details. There is enough conjecture and opinion and talk out there and we don’t need to add to it,” he said.
“As a group we’ve decided the best way forward and we’re in agreement on that. We move on from there.
“We have some excellent senior players who’ve played a part in bringing everyone together.”
Sterling’s social media suggestion that he and Gomez had come to an understanding over the incident was queried, with Southgate asked to confirm if the pair had sat down to talk together.
He stopped short of doing so, but indicated the whole squad was content with the situation and interacting as normal.
“It was crucial to me that everyone in the group is comfortable and speaking and ready to move forward with football,” he said.
“That’s why everyone is still in camp, everyone is still in the squad and working together towards beating Montenegro on Thursday.”