Gareth Southgate addresses Raheem Sterling's continued England absence

Gareth Southgate addresses Raheem Sterling's continued England absence

Gareth Southgate has admitted Raheem Sterling has a “fight on his hands” to resurrect his England career.

The Chelsea forward has earned 82 caps since making his England senior debut in 2012, and 18 of his 20 international goals have come during Southgate’s tenure. But Thursday saw him miss out on the sixth England squad in a row.

The likes of Jarrod Bowen, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon have all moved ahead of him in the England pecking order in the last few months, with Sterling’s last England appearance being the 2022 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France in Qatar.

Sterling has featured in all but three of Chelsea’s Premier League matches this season, yet his game time has waned as the campaign has worn on.

“Well, it's not shut”, Southgate said, when asked whether the door remains open for Sterling with England.

“We have to say at the moment at Chelsea, Cole is the one that is starting every game and they are leaving on. With the form of Anthony Gordon, with the goals Bowen has scored, he has got a fight on his hands. We know what Bukayo [Saka] and Phil [Foden] have done over a long period of time.

“It's like I have said over the past few selections: it's the area of the pitch where we have the highest level of competition for places. We'll never close the door because we know he can perform in our environment in the games that really matter. But, at the moment, we see him behind those guys.”

Sterling, who turns 30 this year, has captained England on occasion under Southgate and has been privately frustrated when not selected for recent squads.

Southgate said of Sterling: “I know we've always tried to balance who can do the job for us, loyalty, but I do believe over time we've given opportunity to form as well, and we're doing that again with Gordon.

“Bowen was in the last two squads anyway. [Jarrad] Branthwaite is a little bit different because we have problems at the back and even if it's not for this summer, we can invest some time in. With Raheem, he's just got to play well for Chelsea.”