Sterling: "Joe and I have had words and figured things out and moved on ... I am man enough to admit when emotions got the better of me"
Tuesday 12 November 2019 19:19, UK
Raheem Sterling has been dropped by Gareth Southgate for England's European Qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday after a row with Joe Gomez at St George's Park - for which he has apologised.
The Manchester City winger is understood to have taken offence to Gomez laughing with several other England team-mates in the training ground canteen before asking "you think you're the big man now?" - and then trying to grab the Liverpool defender round the neck.
The two were separated by team-mates and Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson then mediated via telephone in a meeting between the pair in one of their bedrooms, where Sterling apologised and they agreed to put the matter behind them.
In a statement, England manager Gareth Southgate said "emotions were still raw" after Sterling was involved in a clash with Gomez towards the end of Liverpool's 3-1 win over Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Sunday and he had "taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro".
Gomez is understood to have issued a personal plea to Southgate not to send Sterling home from the England base.
The 24-year-old will remain with the team this week but watch the match at Wembley from the sidelines, despite an apologetic address on social media about what had happened between them.
"First and foremost everyone knows what that game means to me," Sterling said. "Everyone knows that I am not that way inclined and more to the point, both Joe and I have had words and figured things out and moved on.
"We are in a sport where emotions run high and I am man enough to admit when emotions got the better of me. We move, this is why we play this sport because of our love for it.
"Me and Joe Gomez are good, we both understand it was a 5-10 second thing. It's done, we move forward and not make this bigger than it is. Let's get focus on our game on Thursday."
England play Montenegro at Wembley on Thursday before facing Kosovo away on Sunday, knowing just a point from the two games will be enough to see them qualify for Euro 2020.
"I've been involved in quite a few of these things over the years with England and there is no right or wrong in a way, in the sense that I've seen managers sweep it under the carpet, and try to keep a low profile on these sorts of things.
"I've also seen managers go public, as Gareth has. What I would say is that the decision that Gareth has made... I feel like it's the right one without knowing the detail of what's gone on.
"There's nothing worse than sweeping it under the carpet, and then all the players going back to their own rooms they all share together, and having that feeling that they're all talking about you being weak, and that you've not dealt with it because he's a big player and that he's shied away from a big decision."
In a previous Off Script last month, Neville sheds light on how club rivalry manifested itself to England's detriment on international duty
"Gareth Southgate has been firm but fair. The last thing he wants is for cliques to appear in his squad like the days when Manchester United and Liverpool players used to eat at separate tables.
"As a leader, Southgate had three options in this case. He could have downplayed it and dealt with it behind closed doors, he could have sent Raheem Sterling home or he could have dropped him from the next game.
"By choosing option three he has kept arguably his best player in his squad as well as sending a strong message that he will not tolerate club rivalries disrupting the peace and harmony at St George's Park.
"Southgate has four Liverpool players in this squad and two from Manchester City. Apart from this one-off incident there is no issue between Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson, and Sterling and John Stones.
"By his own admission, Sterling is an emotional character. His will to win is so great that at times on Sunday at Anfield he seemed to be trying to get Manchester City back into the game on his own.
"He knows he overstepped the mark by the way he behaved towards Gomez yesterday. He has apologised to Gomez and there is no bad blood between them now.
"Sterling's punishment means he will have to watch as England play their 1,000th game on Thursday. Luckily, their opponents Montenegro are a side who have not won a single qualifying game in Group A.
"Against tougher opponents, Sterling would be a big miss. His absence on Thursday is unlikely to prevent England from winning comfortably. Especially because Southgate has other front players such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho."