England stormed to Euro 2020 qualification on Thursday but their night was overshadowed by the booing of Joe Gomez from his own fans.
Harry Kane’s first-half hat-trick helped Gareth Southgate’s side to a resounding 7-0 win over Montenegro to book England’s place at next summer’s finals but Southgate and Raheem Sterling were forced to condemn the jeering of Gomez after he was introduced as second-half substitute.
The Liverpool defender was involved in a bust-up with Sterling in the canteen at St. George’s Park on Monday – an incident that resulted in Southgate axing the Manchester City forward from the squad for Thursday night’s win.
After the final whistle, Sterling took to Twitter and 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 team mate 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.’Southgate exonerated Gomez of any wrong-doing, yet the defender was targeted by the Wembley boo-boys.
‘First and foremost the whole dressing room are disappointed with it because they are tight,’ Southgate said.’The players are united. No England player should ever be booed.
I don’t get it. All the players are disappointed with that. I’m hugely disappointed for him but he’s got the support of the dressing room.’I’ve already spoken to him and I will speak to him again tomorrow – he’s got to feel the support of everybody.
‘The England boss also told ITV: ‘I don’t understand it because no England player should ever be booed.
We’re a team and Joe has done nothing wrong. I’ve made that absolutely clear earlier in the week. ‘So I don’t understand that, him and Raheem are very close and the whole team are very close so we don’t want to see anybody treated in that way.’
Sterling attempted to grab Gomez by the neck following his arrival in the players’ canteen at St. George’s Park on Monday, the day after they clashed during Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield.
Southgate’s subsequent decision to drop Sterling for the Montenegro match had been criticised and some England fans opted to take sides by aiming vitriol at Gomez, a 22-year-old winning his eighth cap.
The jeers seemed even more bizarre given Sterling applauded Gomez from the stands when he was brought on, in another clear indication that their wounds have healed.
Sterling holds no grudges against Southgate and was surprised to hear the England boss suggest on Wednesday he had ‘got the hump’.
The forward has moved on from the furore and is keen not to let it impact upon the pair’s working relationship.
But the manager was at pains to point out that Gomez was not remotely culpable for the altercation with Sterling earlier in the week.
Gomez had attempted to make a bee-line for the Manchester City winger to shake his hand in the canteen, smoothing over their dispute from Liverpool’s win over the Premier League champions on Sunday.
Sterling was still emotional from the skirmish with the centre back at Anfield and the frustration of losing a key game to title rivals.
He angrily confronted the bemused Gomez, who received a scratch which may have been from another team-mate separating the pair.
Southgate’s decision to drop Sterling divided opinion in the England camp, with some backing the hardline stance and others, including Gomez, lobbying the manager to let the winger play.
He will return to the fold against Kosovo on Sunday and Southgate will hope the whole episode can be put to bed. England will travel for their final group game having already sealed qualification against Montenegro on Thursday.
On England’s goal-laden performance and qualification for next summer’s tournament, Southgate added: ‘I think the quality of our attacking play [in the] first half was excellent.
‘It’s been a group that we expected to win but we’ve totally taken teams apart and matches in the past have been problematic for England teams where teams have defended deep in numbers and been stubborn because of our speed, movement, speed of ball circulation, we’ve carved those teams apart.’