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Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez: Gareth Southgate has made right call, says Gary Neville

Neville: "There's nothing worse than sweeping it under the carpet, and the players going back to their own rooms having that feeling that they're all talking about you being weak"

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Gary Neville has backed Gareth Southgate's decision to drop Raheem Sterling

Gareth Southgate has made the right decision in dropping Raheem Sterling following his altercation with Joe Gomez, according to Gary Neville.

Sterling will not play in England's European Qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday due to an incident at their St George's Park training complex.

Southgate said "emotions were still raw" after Sterling clashed with Gomez towards the end of Liverpool's 3-1 win over Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Renault Super Sunday.

Gareth Southgate speaks to Raheem Sterling during the Nations League Semi-Final in June
Image: Gareth Southgate will not select Raheem Sterling against Montenegro

Sky Sports News understands Sterling tried to grab Gomez round the neck at St Georges' Park after saying, "you think you're the big man now?" in the players' canteen.

Off Script: Nev's United island with England
Off Script: Nev's United island with England

In a previous Off Script last month, Neville sheds light on how club rivalry manifested itself to England's detriment on international duty

Gomez reacted angrily and the two players were separated by team-mates but the players later apologised to each other and agreed to put the matter behind them.

Former England full-back Neville believes Southgate has acted decisively to prevent any further dressing-room unrest on a matter concerning such a high-profile player.

Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling square up at Anfield
Image: Joe Gomez and Sterling square up at Anfield towards the end of Super Sunday

Neville told Sky Sports: "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.

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"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.

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Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez's altercation has led to the Manchester City forward being dropped for England's European Qualifier against Montenegro

"So I feel that it's the right decision. Ultimately, if it's an incident that's happened in front of the rest of the squad that couldn't be dealt with internally and there was a breach of discipline then the manager has to act.

"Sometimes it can cause you some problems down the line, because players can then go back to their own rooms, and say 'the manager's been harsh, there - he's one of our best mates, he's one of our best players.

"But at least, if you're the manager, you know you've made the right decision based upon your principles and your values - that's what you should go with.

"I've seen incidents like this dealt with in both ways with England and there is no ideal because it's so public and the media want their pound of flesh, including ourselves. But the reality is that these things happen in football, and it will blow over."

What message has Southgate sent?

England manager Gareth Southgate (right) and Raheem Sterling during a press conference at Sinobo Stadium, Prague
Image: Gary Neville says Gareth Southgate has acted decisively over Raheem Sterling

Neville added: "Southgate's message is clear: he won't accept club rivalry coming into England.

"I was part of a Manchester United team who had rivalries with Liverpool and Chelsea and there was a sense that it carried over into internationals at times.

"But I feel that hasn't been there in the last three or four years. I feel the spirit has been good.

Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham in England training in 2004
Image: Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham in England training in 2004

"I feel players socialise away from the game a lot more now and a lot of the young England teams have created a bond since they were kids that they've kept on the pathway through to the first team.

"When we were playing, it wasn't as much like that.

"You can imagine, if we were playing Liverpool on the Sunday and we were at each other with Paul Scholes, myself, Nicky Butt and David Beckham against Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler, there wasn't a great deal of spirit between us and we didn't particularly like each other - and that carried over.

"I don't think Gareth Southgate is going to accept that in terms of camaraderie."

'He knows he overstepped the mark'

English referee Michael Oliver (C) chats with Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (R) and Liverpool's English defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 10, 2019.
Image: Referee Michael Oliver talks with Sterling at Anfield on Sunday

Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol...

'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 made a big play for unity'

Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett...

'If it had been more testing opposition, would Southgate have dropped Raheem Sterling? We don't know. But this harks back to England's bad days.

'When Southgate came in, he made a really big step to move Wayne Rooney on from this England squad and he moved on some big personalities.

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Sky Sports News reporters Rob Dorsett and Kaveh Solhekol explain how Raheem Sterling's row with Joe Gomez unfolded in the England camp.

'He's made a big play for having unity in this England camp. It's what took them to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia and it's played such a huge part with all the racism issues they've had to deal with.

'He wants this to be a close-knit group, so if there are any signs of divisions in terms of club loyalties, that will be a worry for Southgate.

'The most pleasing thing for him will be that Joe Gomez appealed on behalf of Sterling and Jordan Henderson came in to act as a peacemaker between everybody. It's the squad sorting it out for themselves.'

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