Raheem Sterling will not be considered for England’s European Championship qualifier against Montenegro after emotions ran high when the team gathered Monday following Manchester City’s loss to Liverpool.
A day after Liverpool triumphed in the Premier League’s top-of-the-table match at Anfield, where Sterling clashed with Reds defender Joe Gomez near the end, both players became involved in another exchange when the England squad convened at the national training center at Burton upon Trent.
The English Football Association was moved to say in a statement that Sterling will not be considered for the game Thursday against Montenegro at Wembley “as a result of a disturbance in a private team area at St. George’s Park today. He will remain with the squad.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said it was the right call.
“One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we’ve been able to separate club rivalries from the national team. Unfortunately, the emotions of yesterday’s game were still raw,” Southgate said.
“My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken. Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it’s important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night.”
Sterling released a statement on his Instagram account late Monday night confirming the training center altercation with Gomez and that both had moved on from the incident.
“First and foremost everyone knows what that game means to me!” Sterling wrote.
“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 get the better of me. We move this is why we play this sport because of our love [of] it.
“Me and [Gomez] are good we both understand it was 5-10 second things and it’s done we move forward and not make this bigger than it is.
“Let’s get focus on our game on Thursday.”
Sterling has been in exceptional form for England, scoring eight goals and providing five assists during Euro 2020 qualification. He will miss their last home qualifier for Euro 2020 and the chance to advance, plus the team’s 1,000th fixture.
Southgate has called up four Liverpool players for England’s latest round of qualifiers — Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — while Sterling and John Stones have been included from City.
On Tuesday, Gomez appeared for training with the rest of the squad sporting a scratch mark below his right eye that was not there at the final whistle of Sunday’s clash at Anfield.
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said Southgate’s decision to drop Sterling will only heap the pressure on the forward and the issue could have been dealt with better.
“Now Raheem is left to defend himself from all of the haters that had their keyboards turned off due to him becoming a very worthy ambassador for the English game,” Ferdinand wrote in a Facebook post.
“If this was a terrible incident then I would be all for public shaming and discipline. But for this ‘throat grab’ that we are TOLD it’s for, I can’t understand it.
“Gareth would no doubt had seen worse many times during his time as a player and manager. I just feel this could and should have been handled better to support the player and not hang him out to dry.”
Sterling has become a key player for England over the past year after being criticised for his displays at the 2018 World Cup.
Last season, he was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association after scoring 25 goals in all competitions as City won a domestic treble of the Premier League title and the two Cup competitions.
For England, Sterling has scored 12 goals in 55 games but has been a regular under Southgate and scored twice in the recent 6-0 win away to Bulgaria.
England, who top Group A with 15 points from six matches, will host Montenegro on Thursday at Wembley before travelling to Kosovo three days later.