Gareth Southgate hails underrated Raheem Sterling and expects great reception for England stars at Wembley

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·4-min read
Gareth Southgate hails underrated Raheem Sterling and expects great reception for England stars at Wembley
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Gareth Southgate says Raheem Sterling is still not getting enough recognition but the England manager believes all his players will get the reception they deserve when they return to Wembley this weekend.

Sterling made the difference again as England thrashed Hungary 4-0 in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier – an occasion overshadowed by racist abuse of the forward and Jude Bellingham from sections of the home support at the Puskas Arena.

The Manchester City winger broke the deadlock after 55 minutes following an uninspiring first half and England scored three more times in an impressive victory in their first game since the European Championship final.

Sterling was England’s outstanding player at the Euros, providing decisive contributions against Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark.

His summer form came on the back of a frustrating season of rotation for City, however, and he faces even more competition at club level this term following the £100million signing of Jack Grealish, who also started in the front three in Budapest.

Asked if Sterling was taking out his frustration at City with England, Southgate said: “You'd have to speak to him about that but I've got a very good relationship with him, he knows what we think of him, he's very comfortable in our environment.

“Of course there's incredible competition for places at Manchester City as well as here, but for us he has just been consistently a player who has delivered in matches and we have had complete faith in him. He has more than rewarded that faith in the goals he has scored. This summer he was outstanding.

“I do think he doesn't really get the recognition he deserves. He often goes under the radar and almost seems to have to continually prove himself. I was asked about that in the summer so let's keep hoping he has to keep proving himself in the way he did again on Thursday.”

Sterling finished a slick move to open the scoring against Hungary and quickly turned provider for Harry Kane with a cross which was headed home by the England captain.

“He has been consistently one of our most important players,” Southgate continued.

“I know it is great that we haven’t got one star player who everybody ends up talking about, which is remarkable when you consider we have the likes of Kane and Sterling and others in the group.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“It is always about the collective but his performances have been so important to us for such a long time. He really sets the tone with the way he works without the ball. When you have a creative talent like he is that is prepared to really commit to the team and weigh in with the goals and assists that he has over a long period of time now, he has been a fabulous player for us to work with and he is so important to what we do.”

Andorra are the visitors to Wembley as England return to the national stadium following the shameful scenes of chaos around their heartbreaking defeat to Italy on penalties on July 11.

Southgate is sure his players will get a rousing reception and is wary of condemning all England fans for the final, having been encouraged by the reactions of Brentford fans to Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka following his decisive penalty miss.

“I don't have any doubts that the players will get a fantastic reception on Sunday," he said.

"I think the country knows the journey they took them on and although there were some ridiculous things that happened on the night of the final and some awful things were said by some, as we were saying on Thursday night [after the racist abuse in Hungary], you shouldn't tar everybody with the same brush.

“We shouldn't tar all the Hungarian fans with that brush and it's certainly not the case with our own fans. We know the groundswell of support that came immediately after that abuse the three boys [who missed penalties] received and I witnessed that first hand when I went to Brentford and saw Bukayo come on.

“It was an incredible experience to see, so I'm sure that's exactly what we'll see on Sunday and the players completely deserve it.

“We have a really strong squad and at this stage of the season players are still getting up to full fitness,” added Southgate.

“To be able to rotate and use the depth is very important. We have a group of players who deserve to play and any of them can go into the team and do a job as they have done when they have been in the past.

“Absolutely we will make a lot of changes, but what will be nice is that for those players who play on Sunday it will be the first game there since the Euros and they will get a fantastic reception I am sure. They deserve that hugely.”

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