Raheem Sterling threw his support behind Joe Gomez after the defender was booed by the Wembley crowd as England secured their place at Euro 2020 with a 7-0 victory over Montenegro on Thursday night.
A proud occasion for Gareth Southgate’s side was soured by a section of England’s supporters appearing to blame Gomez for the incident that led to Sterling being dropped for the qualifier. Southgate was exasperated to hear jeers for the Liverpool player when he replaced Mason Mount in the second half and the manager did not attempt to hide his displeasure with the crowd’s reaction towards the 22-year-old.
The desire to put on a united front was strong. Sterling, who was sitting in the stands, applauded when Gomez was introduced and the Manchester City player took to Twitter to say he was fully to blame following an altercation with his teammate in the canteen at St George’s Park on Monday.
Sterling wrote: “To all the @England fans, I wanted to leave things at it was but tonight I have to speak again: it was hard for me to see my teammate get booed for something that was my fault. Joe hasn’t done anything wrong & for me to see someone who keeps his head down and work hard especially after a difficult week for him to be booed when he came on tonight was wrong. I’ve taken full responsibility and accepted the consequence. I felt as though I had to say this. Get home safe every one.”
The furore dominated the buildup to England’s 1,000th fixture and Southgate, who will restore Sterling to the side against Kosovo in Pristina on Sunday, gave his backing to Gomez.
“The whole dressing room are disappointed with it,” he said. “Contrary to what I’m told has been said in various quarters, all of the players are united, the whole thing was put to bed the other day. Joe had done absolutely nothing wrong. No England player should ever be booed when they’re wearing the shirt. I don’t get it.
“All of the players are particularly disappointed with that. The reason I wanted to get Joe on the pitch was that he’s been with us in September and October and we’ve not got him into the games. Also, I know I’m going to start Raheem on Sunday and get him back onto the pitch as well. It was important for both of them to get back on the field and show everybody we’re all in this now.”
The booing of Gomez overshadowed an excellent performance from Southgate’s young side. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first international goal since June 2017, Tammy Abraham scored his first goal for his country and Harry Kane became England’s sixth highest goalscorer. The striker, who has 31 goals in 44 appearances, moved above Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney after scoring a first-half hat-trick.
Kane revealed that he played a part in Sterling’s exclusion. “The gaffer spoke to me and a few of the other senior players in the team and that’s the decision we came too,” the captain said.