GARETH SOUTHGATE has hardly put a foot wrong since becoming England boss three years ago.

And despite retiring from the game in 2006, he had the air of a man who still understood what it was like to be a player, a vital trait for a manager who wants to be successful. But the mistakes are starting to creep in. The Three Lions boss failed to protect his black players as they were subjected to 90 minutes of racist abuse in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria last month.

Joe Gomez being booed by England fans as he waited to enter the fray against Montenegro was disgraceful.

But Southgate has to take his share of the blame for making far too much of the spat between the Liverpool defender and Raheem Sterling.  


  First of all, Sterling was out of order for allowing emotions that had festered for 24 hours to boil over at St George’s Park. I’ve heard passion and similar words used to mitigate Sterling’s behaviour, there’s no excuse at all.

The Manchester City man had an afternoon to forget in the biggest game of the season the day before at Anfield. It happens, and once he’d left the stadium, despite still being upset about the result, his focus should have moved towards international duty.

After meeting up with the England squad and seeing Gomez, if Sterling still had beef with the Liverpool man, he should have spoken to him about it, bear in mind he’d had a day to calm down. By all accounts the scuffle was over before it even started, remorseful Sterling apologised.

Southgate missed the chance to deliver a verbal volley and underline the fact the 24-year-old was on Three Lions duty and to forget his club issues until next week.  


  It needed no more than that, during his 18-year pro career, Southgate would have been a party to scuffles between players in private that were forgotten about within minutes. No bans, no fuss – talk about cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.

The England boss was right to call a press conference to deal with the issue head-on, so all minds would have been on football after he addressed the media ahead of the Three Lions 100th game. Southgate claimed dropping Sterling was the “right thing for the group”.

Really? If England needed 6 points from their final two qualifiers and were up against an elite country who fancied their chances at Wembley, Sterling would have featured, no question.



  Gomez didn’t want any action taken against Sterling and don’t fall for Southgate’s claims the squad were in agreement with his decision to omit him. Players wanting team-mates banned from playing is highly unlikely.

If what Sterling did was so bad with reports of tension amongst the squad, then why didn’t Southgate send him home?

If the situation was so grave, why was he on the Wembley pitch with suspended Jordan Henderson receiving a 1000th game commemorative plate from FA chairman Greg Clarke? Southgate has set a precedent now, or was it set last month when James Maddison was in a casino, the night England lost to the Czech Republic?

So Sterling gets dropped for a scuffle, but Maddison, despite Southgate unhappy with his antics gets a reprieve, the City star will have noted that one.