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England boss Gareth Southgate sent strong message with Gomez, Sterling press conference | Football | Sport


Gareth Southgate gave a press conference as much for his players as for the media at St George’s Park following Raheem Sterling’s ruck with Joe Gomez.

His main message was a clear and supposedly unmistakable one: “I am the manager”.

In the confused aftermath of the fight in the private area of the England team’s hotel on Monday evening, an FA statement quoting Southgate confirmed Sterling would miss the game against Montenegro and claimed, “the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad”.

Although nobody was saying so publicly, it increasingly became clear that was not strictly true.

Some felt the punishment was too severe; others that the matter should not have been made public at all.

In front of the microphones, though, the message from Southgate was a very different one about who was in charge.

“I have discussions with all of my staff and discussions with the leadership group, absolutely,” he said. “But ultimately, I’m the manager and I make the decision.

“I always have to find the right solution for the group and for how we will work moving forward.

“That’s a very difficult line. You try to be fair at all times, like with all the players. I won’t always get that right, but in the end I’m the manager.

“I’ve made a decision and I think it was appropriate for how we want to work moving forward.”

His leadership group consists of captain Harry Kane with Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire, Fabian Delph and Sterling himself – his trusted lieutenants.

Although it is becoming increasingly clear that throughout the wider squad, trust is becoming something of an issue.

As a result, Southgate’s second message was more in the subtext of all that he was saying.

It is the fact that when push came to shove – or in this case throttle – he could not trust his squad to keep it quiet.

“There seems to be all sorts of info being passed from so many different areas,” he said. “This is a consequence of the England football team now and that is a very difficult situation, one we have to think about moving forward.

“The team getting out, information getting out, there seem to be so many voices in the background.”

It was why journalists had a frustrating time getting under the skin of the story. It was a stubborn display of getting bat and pad together and letting nothing get past him.

“I am not prepared to go into detail,” he said. “The detail is not for me to take further. I have said what I think needs to be said publicly but we have to keep as much as we can between ourselves.”

He is very much of the opinion that what goes on indoors, stays indoors. In his final message, the one for the future, he even spelled that out for his players.

“I love all of my players,” he said. “We’re like a family and all families have disagreements, but the most important thing for any family is that you communicate and work through those disagreements.

“I don’t expect, as a manager, never to have to deal with things that either unexpected or difficult.

“That I consult very closely with all of the players and in particular the senior players and the have a very good understanding of the way we’ve worked over the years.

“It’s brought us a lot of togetherness which is still there. We’re a united group.”

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