Being England manager not about winning popularity contests - Southgate

London (AFP) –


England manager Gareth Southgate brushed aside criticism of his decision to drop Raheem Sterling over an altercation with Joe Gomez, saying he does not resolve problems by thinking how he can please everybody.

The 49-year-old decided to drop Manchester City forward Sterling for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier with Montenegro after he clashed with Liverpool defender Gomez on Monday at England's training centre.

Sterling admitted he had let his emotions get the better of him just 24 hours after Liverpool beat City 3-1 to extend their Premier League lead over the defending champions to nine points.

Southgate has largely been praised for taking action quickly, although former England defender Rio Ferdinand was among the pundits who said it should have been kept behind closed doors.

Southgate, whose side can seal their place at Euro 2020 with a draw in what is their 1,000th international, said he had taken the decision in the best interests of the team.

"Everyone will have an opinion on the decisions you take and only those who have been involved in the environment will know the details of it," he said on Wednesday.

"If you are only going to try and make decisions that keep everyone happy that is not going to work either.

"The team is always my priority."

Southgate, who described his squad on Wednesday as being like a family, said the team will be able to cope without Sterling's presence, although he will be available again for Sunday's clash in Kosovo.

Sterling has been one of the stars of England's qualification campaign, scoring eight goals in six games.

"Raheem is an excellent player who has been in great form, but we will put out a team full of technical ability and passion and enthusiasm," said Southgate.

"Everyone in the squad is ready. It is hardly ever any different.

"We want to focus fully on the match and from our first football meeting yesterday morning that has been our sole focus and we are looking to get on with it."