While one group are firmly behind Southgate’s stance, several players tried to persuade him not to drop Sterling — and it is understood Gomez was among them.
As the furore over the bombshell story — exclusively revealed by Sportsmail on Monday night – reached fever pitch on Tuesday, we can reveal:
- Some members of the England squad are shocked at the decision to axe Sterling for Thursday’s Euro 2020 clash with Montenegro.
- Several players believe the matter should have stayed in-house – questioning why the FA had to publicly reveal the decision to ditch Sterling
- Sterling, who left St George’s Park after the incident to ‘cool off’, issued a heartfelt apology to Gomez and his team-mates following the clash.
- England vice-captain Jordan Henderson brokered peace between the pair – even though he didn’t report to St George’s Park until Tuesday night.
- The FA are probing the incident, which could leave Sterling facing a separate misconduct charge, though the prospect of him facing further sanctions is highly unlikely.
The England players were divided over Gareth Southgate’s decision to drop Raheem Sterling
Some of the group felt the punishment was excessive but others thought Sterling deserved it
Southgate was not due to speak publicly until Wednesday — but the England manager held a hastily-arranged press conference on Tuesday to address the matter.
Sterling and Gomez clashed in the canteen at St George’s Park, resulting in the FA announcing that Sterling would not be play against Montenegro in England’s 1,000th international.
Sportsmail can reveal that some players were surprised at the decision to omit Sterling, feeling there had been an over-reaction, although it is important to stress a group of players back Southgate’s hardline stance.
Sources also indicate that there is a feeling within the camp the matter should have remained in-house after the pair put the issue behind them when Sterling apologised.
Gomez was among the players who thought Sterling should not have been axed
Southgate said on Tuesday: ‘I have discussions with all of my staff and with the leadership group, but ultimately I’m the manager and I make the decision. Raheem is a very important player for us, but I felt it was the right thing.
‘We’re like a family and all families have disagreements, but the most important thing is that you communicate and work through those disagreements.’
The flare-up had been brewing since Sunday’s match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, where Sterling and Gomez confronted each other towards the end of the game before appearing to make up after the final whistle.
Gomez was one of the first players to arrive at St George’s Park on Monday and made a beeline for Sterling in the hope of clearing the air. But the emotions from Sunday’s game reignited, resulting in Sterling grabbing Gomez by the throat and scratching the Liverpool defender under his right eye.
First for football: the sensational story was broken on MailOnline on Monday (top); and yesterday’s Daily Mail back page (above)
The incident happened as Sterling was still angry about the confrontation on Sunday
Players intervened to separate the pair before Sterling was permitted to leave the premises in a car to calm down.
When he returned he addressed the squad to apologise and said sorry personally to Gomez, who was on Tuesday exonerated by Southgate.
Liverpool skipper Henderson played a key role in brokering peace, speaking separately to the duo on the phone.
But despite the spat being dealt with, Southgate — following talks with his backroom and player leadership teams — insisted on axeing Sterling for the Montenegro game, but not Sunday’s match in Kosovo.
‘Gareth was keen he did not want to make the decision himself,’ revealed defender Ben Chilwell. ‘He wanted to come to the right decision with the leadership group. It got spoken about and the decision has been made and we are all on board.’
Everton’s Fabian Delph withdrew from the squad because of injury on Tuesday night.
It is unlikely that the Manchester City winger will face any further sanctions from the FA
BUST UP PAIR KEEP THEIR DISTANCE
It was just before 11am when they emerged. First Gareth Southgate, adjusting a beanie hat to protect him from the elements.
A few moments later came Harry Kane, on his own, closely followed by the Chelsea youngsters Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Fikayo Tomori.
There were only two players, however, that the assembled bank of photographers and reporters had come to see.
All eyes were on Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling when the players warmed up
Open training sessions at St George’s Park are usually humdrum but the events of the previous day meant flashbulbs began popping when Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling surfaced.
Gomez, the Liverpool central defender, was with his team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold in one group.
It soon became clear that he had a large scratch under his right eye, the remnants of Sterling losing his emotions.
The Manchester City forward was one of the last on to the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch, pulling a snood up over his face as he headed over to listen to Southgate speak – as is customary – before the session started with a series of shuttle sprints and warm-up drills.
Sterling was in a different group to the Liverpool defender during the rondo drill
It was noticeable that Gomez and Sterling were in different groups as the squad did some rondos – the exercise of passing the ball around in a circle, while two men in the middle try to stop them.
The media in England are designated a 15-minute slot to watch training in the build-up to matches; occasionally the time-keeping is loose and you can stay a little longer.
Not this time. Once the clock hit 11.15am, enough was enough. The doors were closed.