Raheem Sterling is NOT happy about being axed by England again, admits Gareth Southgate, as he warns in-form Chelsea forward he faces ‘a lot of competition’ after he pulled out of last two squads

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Gareth Southgate has opened up on Raheem Sterling’s disappointment after being left out of the latest England squad.

Three Lions manager Southgate named his latest 23-man group for the upcoming international break.

Chelsea forward Sterling – who had made himself available after missing out amid fitness concerns – is the headline omission.

And speaking to the media, Southgate discussed how frustrated the 28-year-old is after the surprise snub. 

He said: ‘I’m convinced he’s going to have an excellent season at Chelsea.

Gareth Southgate has opened up on Raheem Sterling's disappointment after his England axe

Gareth Southgate has opened up on Raheem Sterling’s disappointment after his England axe

Three Lions boss Southgate named his latest 23-man England squad on Thursday afternoon

Three Lions boss Southgate named his latest 23-man England squad on Thursday afternoon

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In-form Chelsea star Sterling (left), who scored twice against Luton, is the headline omission

In-form Chelsea star Sterling (left), who scored twice against Luton, is the headline omission

‘He was not available for the last two and that’s given other people the opportunity to play well and establish themselves.

‘It is a difficult call and Raheem is not particularly happy about it but I understand that.’ 

FULL ENGLAND SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

DEFENDERS: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

MIDFIELDERS: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Man City), Declan Rice (Arsenal).

FORWARDS: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Man City), Jack Grealish (Man City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle).

England are set to face Ukraine in a European Championship qualifier in Poland on Saturday September 9 before travelling to Hampden Park to face Scotland in a friendly on Tuesday September 12. 

Sterling’s omission comes as a surprise after he started the season well for Chelsea, scoring twice in their 3-0 win over Luton Town last Friday. 

Southgate said he was pleased with Sterling’s start to the season but insisted he wanted to keep the same group together that made a strong start to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. 

It will be the third consecutive England squad Sterling has missed after he ruled himself out after being injured back in March and June.  

And Southgate added: ‘We were really pleased with the group and to bring Raheem back in, we have to leave somebody out and I don’t think any of the attackers deserved leaving out.

‘It’s really good to see Raheem start the season well, he looks hungry and is an important player for us but in those areas behind the No 9, we’ve got a lot of competition for places.’

Southgate also included uncapped Chelsea defender Levi Colwill, and midfielder Jordan Henderson despite his move from Liverpool to Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.

Harry Maguire has also retained his place despite not featuring for Manchester United this season so far. 

Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has also been called up and could be in line for his first cap.

England have won all four of their Euro 2024 qualifiers so far to top Group C, scoring 15 times and conceding only once in the process. 

Chelsea defender Levi Colwill (left) is in line to receive a first England cap after being called up

Chelsea defender Levi Colwill (left) is in line to receive a first England cap after being called up

Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has also received a first call-up for the upcoming two matches

Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has also received a first call-up for the upcoming two matches

On Colwill and Nketiah’s call-ups, Southgate added: ‘The two young players are doing very well and have done well with our junior teams.

‘Levi had some time with us in the summer and with the basis of this squad, I didn’t want to move from the squad we had at Old Trafford [against North Macedonia in June] but we’ve had a lot of people with issues at the back.

‘The only other change is Eddie, we’d like to have a look at him. He has a good pedigree, is a very good finisher and he’s not had the chance to work with us.’

Speaking about Maguire, Southgate admitted it was ‘far from ideal’ the centre-back wasn’t playing regularly for Man United having decided to stay at Old Trafford and fight from his place.

But with Tyrone Mings out injured, Eric Dier not playing at Tottenham and Conor Coady now in the Championship at Leicester, Southgate stressed ‘it is important we have experience.’

He added that Kalvin Phillips, also being starved of game time at Manchester City, was the best midfield pivot option available behind Arsenal’s Declan Rice. 

On Henderson’s move to the Saudi Pro League, Southgate said: ‘We’ve watched every game. The key moving forward will be the physical intensity of the league and whether the heat will allow him to perform at the level we need.

‘We’re still assessing the level of the league. Lots of other countries will have this issue – Portugal have got a few players there. We’ve got to assess where he’s going to sit and map him against others.

Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson have retained their places in the England squad

Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson have retained their places in the England squad

Southgate said he would need to assess the strength of the Saudi League after Henderson moved to Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool

Southgate said he would need to assess the strength of the Saudi League after Henderson moved to Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool

‘That’s not easy when you’re not playing Champions League or Premier League.’

Asked about Henderson’s decision to play his football in Saudi Arabia having been an advocate for the LGBT+ community, Southgate responded: ‘I think we are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. A large number of the team and staff have relatives or friends from the community.

‘I can only talk on a personal level. I will try to be accepting of everyone’s cultures. It’s not intentional that we would let down any of our fans but these are complex issues that we’re all trying to navigate.’

Southgate doesn’t believe there will be any hostility towards Henderson from England’s support: ‘We’re picking a team for football reasons. There are lots of different club ownership models. There are a lot of different players who play in countries with different religious beliefs.

‘I don’t know why a player would receive an adverse reaction because of where he plays football.’

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