Gareth Southgate (pictured) admitted yesterday that his relationship with Raheem Sterling has been damaged by the decision to drop the forward. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters

Gareth Southgate admitted yesterday that his relationship with Raheem Sterling has been damaged by the decision to drop the forward for tonight’s clash with Montenegro.

Sterling should return to the starting XI in Kosovo on Sunday but has been omitted from England’s 1,000th game because of his bust-up with defender Joe Gomez at St George’s Park.

‘Is it fair to say that he’s got the hump with me right now? Well, I wouldn’t imagine that he’s hugely enthusiastic, but I can understand that,’ said the England boss.

‘We took the decision and drew a

line under everything. We move forward now. The way he’s trained has been exemplary, so that’s it.’

Southgate is confident that time will heal any damage done over the past few days. ‘There were many occasions when I had the hump with managers, usually when I wasn’t in the team,’ explained Southgate.

‘So I understand that, I hope that time takes its course on those things. As a manager, you hope that you bring lots of good moments for players.

‘There are inevitably occasions when you don’t start them, where you have to take them off, and that will always be the landscape. I hope all my players know that, first and foremost, I care about them. I want to be fair with them, I want to do what’s right for all of them, and they can lean on me when they need me.

‘I also accept that, at times, they’re not going to be bouncing with joy when they see me walking through the meal room.

‘That is part and parcel of being a manager. If you’re not up for that challenge, then it’s better to go and do something else.’

The England manager accepted his squad were probably divided over his handling of Sterling’s spat with Gomez. Sportsmail revealed yesterday that a number of players were left shocked at Sterling’s treatment and Southgate added: ‘When you’re a leader or a manager, everybody will have an opinion on the decisions you take.

‘You have to do what you believe to be the right thing, and if you’re only prepared to make decisions to keep everybody happy, that’s not a route that’s going to work, because it’s impossible to keep everybody happy.

‘I know about relationships with players. As a player, my relationships with managers were always up and down.’

Southgate is set to start John Stones ahead of Tyrone Mings at centre half tonight.

Daily Mail