LONDON – Gareth Southgate has revealed that Raheem Sterling has apologised to his England teammates after reporting late for their World Cup training camp.
Sterling had been due to arrive at St George’s Park last Tuesday, a day later than the bulk of the squad due to a personal commitment which delayed his post-season holiday in Jamaica.
But his return flight stopped in Miami rather than continuing direct to England, meaning the Manchester City winger did not arrive until the following morning.
Sterling phoned ahead to warn of the delay, but England boss Southgate took him aside to discuss the matter further when he belatedly checked in at the national football centre.
Southgate has made it clear he demands the highest professional standards, and the 23-year-old got the message that he had to take his England commitments seriously.
A chastened Sterling asked Southgate if he could say sorry to the squad for his lateness.
“He was given off until the Tuesday night and he arrived on the Wednesday morning, so he was late,” Southgate said.
“There was a mix-up on flights and a connection. In fairness to him, he wanted to apologise to the group, explained his commitment to the team, and it’s done.
“That was accepted and everybody has moved on.”
Sterling had already been in trouble this week when he posted a social media picture of his new tattoo of an M16 assault rifle on his calf.
Lucy Cope, who founded Mothers Against Guns after her son Damian was shot dead outside a club in July 2012, said the depiction was “totally unacceptable”.
Sterling said the unfinished tattoo served as a reminder of his vow never to touch guns after his father was shot to death in his native Jamaica when he was just two years old.
Asked if he felt let down by Sterling, Southgate insisted the player retains his full support.
“It was not an intentional situation,” Southgate said ahead of Saturday’s World Cup warm-up against Nigeria at Wembley.
“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 it was clear to me, his commitment and his focus.
“Managers want an easy life, really. They don’t want to have (these) conversations, and we know the world we live in.
“Nothing stays private. That’s part of the long discussion we had when we went for a walk.
We wouldn't normally post a video this long, but. 😦 pic.twitter.com/bYyT2XyjCK
“I don’t know why there are so many stories about him compared to others, but he is the type of player who can make a difference. There is a bigger expectation, a bigger focus on him.
“If you want to be a top player, you have to be able to handle that.”