Rio Ferdinand believes Raheem Sterling has been “hung out to dry” by England manager Gareth Southgate after a confrontation involving Joe Gomez at St George’s Park.
The Manchester City winger has been dropped for the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday after a row with the Liverpool defender while on international duty.
What happened between Sterling and Gomez? Five things to know…
- Liverpool lead Man City by nine points in the Premier League after Sunday’s 3-1 Anfield win.
- Sterling and Gomez embraced at full-time after earlier becoming involved in a mild physical altercation.
- But the FA confirmed on Monday that Sterling will play no part in Thursday’s game after a follow-up “disturbance” at St George’s Park.
- Sterling later issued a statement saying the pair have made up after his emotions “got the better” of him.
- The City player is claimed to have grabbed at the throat of Gomez, who the Times says was left with a scratch on his face.
The duo were involved in a heated clash in the latter stages of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday. The incident preceded what the FA described as a “disturbance” a day later within England’s training camp, where tempers boiled over in the players’ canteen.
Sterling, who is said to have reacted aggressively as Gomez greeted him on Monday, took to social media to explain the incident and says he and the Liverpool player have now “figured things out and moved on”.
“First and foremost everyone knows what that game means to me,” Sterling posted on his Instagram account.
“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.”
Southgate himself stated that “emotions were still raw” following the Premier League clash on Sunday, but has decided to omit Sterling from the match at Wembley later this week as punishment.
Former England international Ferdinand has now criticised Southgate’s decision, believing the affair should have been handled internally to avoid any ‘scrutiny and vilification’ of Sterling.
In a post on his Facebook account, Ferdinand wrote: “GARETH has handled being England manager brilliantly – up to this point.
“He has conducted himself in an admirable, eloquent & engaging way. Helping to make a Nation feel like they can have some sort of confidence & respect for the national team.
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“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.
“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!”
England can confirm qualification for Euro 2020 with a win over Montenegro on Thursday. They do so without their joint-top scorer for the 2018/19 campaign in Sterling (10 goals), who has received several awards this year owing to his vocal stance against racism. His off-field development has been previously hailed by Southgate for having “a massive impact on British society.”