Gareth Southgate has made a huge error in declaring Raheem Sterling is not for selection against Montenegro on Thursday after the fall out with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez.
In making this decision, Southgate has made the whole incident a thousand times bigger than it was and something that will now rumble on all week.
Being neither a Manchester City nor a Liverpool fan, I cannot be accused of wearing rose or blue tinted spectacles. Also, I am a fan of Southgate who has conducted himself very well since taking over the England job. He has made some tough decisions in squad selection, appears to have unified the players and gets the best of out players when they put on an England shirt unlike previous managers.
However this incident is nothing more than handbags which has now, due to Southgate been blown up into front and back page headlines.
Sterling suffered the most abuse in the Anfield atmosphere on Sunday due to being an ex-Liverpool player. Constantly booed and chants aimed at him for being a greedy so and so, it never subsided.
The abuse only seemed to spur on Sterling who clearly tried as hard as any City player on Sunday to get them back into the game. Sterling was also targeted by Liverpool players who got into his face at every opportunity. All the attention was above board and only what Sterling must have expected on his return to Merseyside.
If I was a City fan I would want my players to hurt after the 3-1 defeat on Sunday. As a fan I would have been hurting and too often these days players do not seem to match the passion of the supporter. Swapping shirts at half and full time, joking with each other in the tunnel or at the end of the game all annoys me as a supporter. So it is refreshing that Sundays defeat touched a nerve with a modern day millionaire footballer.
It did not help that the England squad gathered together the very next day after the match. Haven’t we all as supporters took a few days to get over a particular defeat so why not the same for the players?
By all accounts Sterling has had words with Gomez in the training facility and grabbed him which was quickly defused by others present. Handbags and something which Sterling has come out and apologised for on social media. This matter could have been dealt with in the manager’s office with handshakes and an apology from Sterling and let the players get on with what they are paid to do, win football matches.
Dressing rooms up and down the country can be tough places. I wonder how the likes of the 1980`s Liverpool dressing room dealt with issues with the likes of Souness and McMahon around? Or some of Sir Alex Fergusons hard men in Keane, Ince and Hughes dealt with their own when players were not pulling their weight?
Players would have fronted up their teammates and had it out with them face to face which would only make the morale ultimately stronger come match day.
I suspect Southgate is trying to stamp his authority on the squad here but would he have been so bold had England been training for a World Cup Semi Final on Thursday and dropped Englands best player in Sterling? I very much doubt it.
Whilst previous England squads have been fractured due to club loyalties, there will always be a certain amount of clique in national sides dressing rooms it is inevitable. I am sure players who won titles or cups would have shown off their medals to wind up others and why not? It is part of the game.
The important thing here is Sterling has admitted he stepped over a line and had apologised. Southgate has just made the issue much bigger and in doing so has thrown Sterling under the bus. It remains to be seen if that decision comes back to haunt the manager.
Image courtesy of the London Standard.