England door is always open for Raheem Sterling – Gareth Southgate

By Sports Desk May 24, 2023

Raheem Sterling was the headline absentee as Gareth Southgate handed Eberechi Eze his first England call-up and ended Lewis Dunk’s time in the international wilderness.

Having kicked off Euro 2024 qualification with wins over Italy and Ukraine, attention turns to June’s straightforward-looking doubleheader against Malta and North Macedonia.

Sterling is the most eye-catching absentee for those games as a difficult first season since swapping Manchester City for Chelsea comes to a frustrating conclusion.

The 28-year-old has not played for England since the World Cup quarter-final exit to France – when a burglary at home disrupted his preparations – as injury ruled him out of the March camp.

“I spoke with him a week or so ago – a general catch-up,” England boss Southgate said.

“He’s not happy physically with his condition, having been carrying a hamstring problem. He really wasn’t in consideration.

“So, we didn’t get to the point of whether he should be in or out. He doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs.”

A representative for Sterling called it a “mutual decision” that allows the player to focus on “recuperating his body in preparation for the upcoming season”.

The 28-year-old is determined to play a key role for England next term and Southgate says he can get back into the fold ahead of next year’s finals, as can omitted Tottenham defender Eric Dier.

“As we’ve shown with Tyrone (Mings) coming back (this time) and other players like Trent (Alexander-Arnold) coming back in, the door is always open when players are playing well,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Eric and Raheem both have physical issues really at the moment that they’re dealing with, so there’s part of that is behind that decision as well.

“But there’s another year to go before the Euros and it’s possible for everybody to get in that squad.”

Mings, Alexander-Arnold, Callum Wilson and Sam Johnstone returned to the England squad as Southgate has largely stuck with the tried and tested for the Group C games, with Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Eze the only uncapped player named in the group.

The 24-year-old finally get his shot with England after an Achilles injury cost him a place in the provisional Euro 2020 squad.

“We have liked him for a long time,” Southgate said.

“He was very unfortunate just before the Euros. We were going to call him into a prep camp to have a look at him and he got a bad injury.

“I remember talking to Roy Hodgson about him then and Roy telling me he’d picked up an injury in training that day.

“I think he has finished the season really strongly, he can play in a couple of positions across that attacking line.

“He’s a goal threat, he’s got nice ability and bursts of speed to go past people and to take people out of the game with dribbling skills.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him a bit closer and everybody I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person as well.”

Dunk has played for England but the Brighton captain has not been selected since winning his first cap against the United States in November 2018.

“Brighton’s football this year has been exceptional and Lewis Dunk and Levi Cowell have been a big part of that,” Southgate said.

“He’s shown great composure with the ball, he’s asked to defend very often one against one situations and he thoroughly deserves his call.”

The squad also includes Marcus Rashford, who missed March’s fixtures and last featured for England in a qualifier in the run to the last Euros.

“He’s a super player who’s had a really good season, so he’s an important player for us,” Southgate told talkSPORT.

“We’ve not been blessed with having him to be able to put in the team too often but we’re hoping that’s different. And we’re looking forward to seeing him again.”

There is no place for Ben White, who has not featured for England since leaving Qatar after the World Cup group stage due to personal reasons.

“I spoke with Ben before the camp in March,” Southgate added.

“But at the moment, we’ve got (Kieran) Trippier and (Kyle) Walker in that area of the pitch.

“He’s had a very good season, as have the whole Arsenal team, but he’s not ahead of those guys at the moment.”

Related items

  • Alexander-Arnold says Lineker's Euro 2024 criticism of England was warranted Alexander-Arnold says Lineker's Euro 2024 criticism of England was warranted

    Trent Alexander-Arnold admits England's players agreed with Gary Lineker's controversial description of the Three Lions' Euro 2024 performances as "s***".

    Lineker hit out at England's display in a 1-1 group-stage draw with Denmark on his podcast, The Rest is Football, in comments that attracted a fierce response from captain Harry Kane.

    Kane responded by saying former England players in the media had a "responsibility" when it came to discussing the national team, calling on them to be more supportive.

    Alexander-Arnold, however, says many in the camp agreed with Lineker's criticism and feels some used it as motivation as the Three Lions grew into the tournament, finishing as runners-up to Spain.

    "We had all seen it and heard it and felt it," the Liverpool ace told The Daily Mirror. "We all knew that we could be playing and performing better. 

    "It is never nice for someone to point that out but everyone deep down knew it within ourselves, too.

    "It was something we were already thinking about, we knew we needed to be better. We had to add that to our performances, some players may have used that as motivation."

    England created chances worth just 6.15 expected goals (xG) in their seven games in Germany, with only Scotland (0.32), Serbia (0.7), Slovenia (0.81), Albania (0.82) and Italy (0.84) averaging a lower xG figure per game than their 0.88.

    The Three Lions needed a stoppage-time overhead kick from Jude Bellingham to overcome Slovakia in the last 16, a penalty shoot-out to advance against Switzerland in the quarter-finals and a last-minute Ollie Watkins winner to beat the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

    After England's dramatic run ended with a 2-1 final loss to Spain, manager Gareth Southgate announced his resignation following eight years at the helm.

    Alexander-Arnold believes the Three Lions' aim for the 2026 World Cup must be to finally get over the line, promising the squad will give their all for Southgate's successor.

    "Everyone has a high expectation with England now and rightly so, it is true of us as players," he added.

    "We feel we should be winning tournaments, that is the goal and standard we have set ourselves. That will be there for the new manager."

  • Bayern sporting director Eberl suggests Kimmich future in doubt Bayern sporting director Eberl suggests Kimmich future in doubt

    Bayern Munich sporting director Max Eberl has suggested Joshua Kimmich's future at the club could be in question, saying no player is guaranteed a regular starting place.

    Kimmich has entered the final 12 months of his contract with Bayern, who he joined in 2015 and has helped win eight Bundesliga titles and one Champions League.

    Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City have all been linked with a move for the 29-year-old, who endured a difficult 2023-24 campaign.

    Kimmich reportedly had a strained relationship with former Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel, as the club saw their 11-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga title ended by Bayer Leverkusen.

    Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Eberl hinted every player in the Bayern squad must prove themselves ahead of Vincent Kompany's first season in charge.

    "Joshua is a very good player, but it is generally true that professional football is a competitive sport," Eberl said. 

    "We cannot say to any player; 'Hey, you are the one who is going to play.

    "I'm just saying what applies to everyone. We have exciting players in all positions and therefore many alternatives."

    Bayern strengthened their midfield options by clinching a deal for Fulham's Joao Palhinha earlier this month, having already signed Michael Olise from Crystal Palace.

  • England recover from nervy start to lead West Indies by 207 runs England recover from nervy start to lead West Indies by 207 runs

    England took control of the second Test against West Indies as the hosts established a 207-run lead at the close of play on Saturday's third day at Trent Bridge.

    The hosts ended the day on 248-3, aided by two century partnerships from Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett, and Joe Root and Harry Brook. Both Brook, on 71, and Root, on 37, will resume batting on Sunday.

    Despite Chris Woakes claiming the wickets of Alzarri Joseph (10) and Jayden Seales (duck) in successive balls, a final-wicket stand of 71 from Shamar Joseph (33) and Joshua da Silva, who was left unbeaten on 82, saw West Indies, who resumed at 351-5, reach 457.

    Scores: England 416 & 248-3 (Duckett 76, Brook 71*, Pope 51, A Joseph 2-58) lead West Indies 457 (Hodge 120, Da Silva 82*, Woakes 4-84) by 207 runs

    England's second innings, which they began 41 runs adrift, got off to a nervy start as opener Zak Crawley (three) was run out by Jayden Seales at the non-striker's end.

    However, much like they did in the first innings, Duckett (76) and Pope (51) settled the hosts down with a 119-run second-wicket stand, before Alzarri Joseph claimed both in the space of eight deliveries.

    Still, Brook and Root also produced an important, unbroken 108-run partnership that placed Ben Stokes' side in command heading into day four.

    Data Debrief: Successive century partnerships for Duckett and Pope

    With a strong finish to their opening innings, the Windies reached 457 - their highest total on English soil since 1995.

    England's response was led by Duckett and Pope's impressive stand of 119, their second three-figure partnership of the series.

    They became only the ninth pair to make two century stands for England in a men's Test, and first since Joe Root and Alistair Cook achieved the feat against Pakistan eight years ago.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.