England players left shocked by Raheem Sterling axing ahead of Euro 2020 qualifiers7 min read

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England have been left shocked at the decision to axe Raheem Sterling from the squad to face Montenegro following his bust-up with Joe Gomez.

Sportsmail understands members of the squad feel there has been an over reaction to the incident between Sterling and Gomez at St George’s Park that was first revealed by this website.

England boss Gareth Southgate took the unprecedented step of issuing a public statement after the incident.  

Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez were involved in a bust-up once again during England training

Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez were involved in a bust-up once again during England training

The England team-mates clashed late on during Liverpool's victory over Manchester City

The England team-mates clashed late on during Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City

Sterling and Gomez confronted each other as tensions boiled over at Anfield on Sunday

Sterling and Gomez confronted each other as tensions boiled over at Anfield on Sunday

Sources also indicate that there’s a feeling within the camp that the matter should have remained in-house after the pair put the issue behind them after Sterling apologised.

Indeed, Sportsmail understands Liverpool played a key role in brokering peace between the team-mates, Reds skipper Jordan Henderson – who will meet up later with the squad as he is suspended for the game against Montenegro – believed to have spoken to the duo.

Henderson has also volunteered to go to St George’s Park to see his Liverpool team mate and also Sterling. 

Sportsmail broke the news of the latest Sterling-Gomez bust-up online on Monday night

Sportsmail broke the news of the latest Sterling-Gomez bust-up online on Monday night

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, seen here challenging Sterling in Sunday's game, has stepped in as a peace broker between the feuding England team-mates

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, seen here challenging Sterling in Sunday’s game, has stepped in as a peace broker between the feuding England team-mates

Raheem Sterling posted this statement on Instagram to clarify the situation

Raheem Sterling posted this statement on Instagram to clarify the situation

The flare-up had been brewing since Sunday’s title showdown at Anfield when Sterling and Gomez had a row at the end of the game but they made friends and hugged before leaving the pitch.

But despite the spat being dealt with Southgate still insisted on axing Sterling from his plans for Thursday’s game – something that has left some players surprised given the players have buried the hatchet.

Players feel such flashpoints happen at club level on a regular basis and that it should have been kept in-house and there is a concern Sterling has been exposed unnecessarily. 

As revealed by Sportsmail on Monday evening, it is understood that Sterling attempted to grab Gomez by the neck following his arrival in the players’ canteen at St George’s Park on Monday.

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Sterling had clashed with Gomez towards the end of the dramatic top-of-the-table clash at Anfield which left City nine points behind leaders Liverpool, and the bad blood spilled over on Monday. 

Gomez chats with England manager Gareth Southgate on Monday at the St George's Park base

Gomez chats with England manager Gareth Southgate on Monday at the St George’s Park base

Gomez arrives at St George's Park on Monday following Liverpool's win over their title rivals

Gomez arrives at St George’s Park on Monday following Liverpool’s win over their title rivals

England can secure their place at Euro 2020 if they draw with Montenegro on Thursday night

England can secure their place at Euro 2020 if they draw with Montenegro on Thursday night

England’s Euro 2020 qualifying scores 

March 22 Czech Republic (H) 5-0

March 25 Montenegro (A) 5-1

September 7 Bulgaria (H) 4-0

September 10 Kosovo (H) 5-3

October 11 Czech Republic (A) 1-2

October 14 Bulgaria (A) 6-0

November 14 Montenegro (H)

November 17 Kosovo (A) 

The City winger is understood to have reacted aggressively after being greeted warmly by Gomez in the players’ canteen at St George’s Park in front of the rest of the squad, with the Liverpool defender stunned by Sterling’s outburst.

Sterling was sat down in the canteen when Gomez arrived and leant over from behind to shake his hand, leading to him to attempt to grab his team-mate by the neck.

The rest of the England players initially thought Sterling was joking, but it soon became clear that he had lost control and the pair were separated.

The incident was particularly surprising to the other Liverpool players present as Sterling and Gomez had made the peace following the game at Anfield with an embrace following the final whistle.

The cause of Sterling’s eruption was unclear, although England sources were speculating on Monday night that he may have reacted badly to being widely lampooned on social media for coming off second-best physically in the initial confrontation with Gomez. 

England's preparations for their matches against Montenegro and Kosovo have been disrupted

England’s preparations for their matches against Montenegro and Kosovo have been disrupted

Southgate is ready to give James Maddison his England debut during the international break

Southgate is ready to give James Maddison his England debut during the international break

The heated exchange plunged the FA into crisis talks on Monday night, with manager Gareth Southgate giving serious consideration as to whether Sterling should be sent home before opting to drop him for one game.

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The 24-year-old is England’s most creative player and has been spoken of as a future captain because of the leadership skills he has developed over the past few seasons, a notion encouraged by Southgate.

‘We have taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro on Thursday,’ Southgate said in a statement released by the FA. ‘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.

‘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 is understood to have apologised to Gomez and the squad after the altercation. Gomez and the squad accepted his apology.

Sterling then took to Instagram in the early hours of Tuesday morning to tell his side of the story. ‘We are in a sport where emotions run high and I am man enough to admit when emotions got the better of me,’ he posted. ‘Both Joe and I have had words and figured things out and moved on.’ 

Rio: ‘Gareth could have handed this incident better’

Former England defender Gareth Southgate has given his opinion on the Sterling-Gomez incident in a Facebook post 

GARETH has handled being England manager brilliantly – up to this point.

He has conducted himself in a admirable, eloquent & engaging way. Helping to make a Nation feel like they can have some sort of confidence & respect for the national team. However, I feel this incident could have been handled better.

Keep it behind closed doors & deal with it internally surely?! Come International Week, it’s meet up time between Sterling & Gomez…Raheem Sterling was still upset with Gomez about the result on Sunday & their little pushing/words said during the #lfc vs #mcfc game.

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So he has obviously gone into the England camp heated & gone for Gomez, in doing so grabbed Gomez by the throat. Obviously as a manager I’m sure having a harmonious squad is the best scenario – handshakes and hugs on sight not confrontations. But let’s be honest now this kind of stuff isn’t uncommon in squads full of testosterone.

In the various squads I have been a part of I have seen players get punched in the face, ribs broken, nose busted, head kicked like a football…..a throat grab was the equivalent of the intricate handshake embraces that are all too familiar today!

The main question is: Why this couldn’t be handled internally?

I suppose the management have felt it would be better to nip it in the bud prior to the press, agents, family friends leaking the news. However, the worst case on this instance would have been someone asking in a press conference “what happened between Raheem & Gomez, we heard there was a fight”. Easy answer & we have a game to concentrate on. Incident done and dusted. No player looks any worse, we move on.

Now Raheem is left to defend himself from all of the haters that had had their keyboards turnt off due to him becoming a very worthy ambassador for the English game, and rightly so.

If this was a terrible incident then I would be all for public shaming & 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 & not hang him out to dry.

One of our World Class players who has conducted himself wonderfully through Racism and unwarranted criticism in an England shirt will now come under more scrutiny and be vilified in the media no doubt – when this could have been dealt with internally. Hindsight is a great thing though.

It seems to me, Raheem felt embarrassed by all that went on at the weekend…. a sign of winning mentality….. however channeled wrongly. Help educate him!

RF