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Raheem Sterling sorry after arriving
Raheem Sterling took it
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upon himself to apologise to his team-mates after being disciplined by Gareth Southgate for arriving a day late for England’s pre-World Cup training camp.
The Manchester City forward was censured in a one-on-one meeting with the national manager after a mix up over his flight back from a holiday in Jamaica left him reporting to St George’s Park 12 hours late. He had subsequently felt obliged to reaffirm his commitment to the entire squad and, having trained impressively in the period since, is still expected to start Saturday’s friendly against Nigeria at Wembley.
Confirmation of last month’s misdemeanour comes after a week
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in which Sterling has been subjected to frenzied media scrutiny over a new gun tattoo on his leg. Southgate has spoken to the 23-year-old about that and reaffirmed publicly that Sterling
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“has our support”, though he will have taken a dimmer view of Sterling’s tardy arrival, however unintentional, given the implied lack of respect to the group.
While the manager had granted his entire squad a week’s
break at the end of their respective club seasons, Sterling had been given an extra day off for family reasons, meaning he was expected to report 24 hours after
the main bulk of his colleagues on the evening of Tuesday, 22 May. The City forward duly travelled to Ibiza and, having returning briefly to the United Kingdom, went to Jamaica on a family holiday.
Yet a mistake over flight times saw him having to return via Miami and, having telephoned Southgate to explain he had made an error, he did not meet up with the national squad until Wednesday morning. He ended up training that day in the gym. “He was given off until the Tuesday night and he arrived on the Wednesday morning, so he was late,” said Southgate. “That was dealt with. There was a mix-up on flights and a connection. I had a discussion with the player and then he, in fairness, wanted to apologise to the group.
“He explained his commitment to the team. We’ve dealt with it internally. Everybody moved on. I have to say, he’s trained brilliantly all week. He’s so keen for this tournament
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to be a success for him and the team. There was nothing intentional in his lateness. The reason I ‘dealt with it’ was because we’d agreed he could have some extra time, and he was late after the extra time. That was the only issue. It was not an intentional situation. If someone doesn’t want to be here and wants to be late, that’s different, but I know how he was about it, so his commitment and focus were clear to me.”
Southgate has made clear to Sterling he will not tolerate a repeat in the weeks ahead as England’s preparations for Russia gather pace, starting with the friendly against Nigeria. “Managers want an easy life, really,” he said. “We know the world we live in. Nothing stays private. So if those situations happen, they are going to be out there. There is a requirement to answer questions on them, and the possibility they become a bigger issue than they might. That’s part of the long discussion we had when we went for a walk.
“Raheem is the type of player who can make a difference. Look at the impact he has had at Manchester City this year – it was the same for us in our friendlies in March. There is a bigger expectation, a bigger focus on him. But if you want to be a top player, you have to be able to handle that. I’m looking forward to seeing him play on Saturday and he’s looking forward to the games.”
Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho were disciplined and dropped from the starting lineup for an England Under 19s fixture against Latvia in March after turning up late for a training session.
Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are not under consideration for the game against Nigeria having yet to link up with the squad after playing in last weekend’s Champions League final. Phil Jones is also out of contention with his partner due to give birth, while the fitness
of both Harry Maguire and Danny Rose will be monitored. Sterling should operate just behind the newly appointed captain, Harry Kane, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to gain his third cap in central midfield.
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