Former England star Rio Ferdinand has urged Gareth Southgate to support Raheem Sterling instead of leaving him out to “dry”.
Sterling and Joe Gomez had an alteration before the former was sidelined for Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualifying match with Montenegro.
“Gareth has handled being England manager brilliantly – up to this point,” Ferdinand wrote on Facebook.
“He has conducted himself in an admirable, eloquent & engaging way. Helping to make a nation feel like they can have some sort of confidence & respect for the national team.
“However, I feel this incident could have been handled better. Keep it behind closed doors & deal with it internally surely?!
“Raheem Sterling was still upset with Gomez about the result on Sunday & their little pushing/words said during the game.
“Obviously as a manager I’m sure having a harmonious squad is the best scenario – handshakes and hugs on sight not confrontations. But let’s be honest now this kind of stuff isn’t uncommon in squads full of testosterone.
“In the various squads I have been a part of I have seen players get punched in the face, ribs broken, nose busted, head kicked like a football… The main question is: Why this couldn’t be handled internally?
“I suppose the management have felt it would be better to nip it in the bud prior to the press, agents, family friends leaking the news. However, the worst case on this instance would have been someone asking in a press conference ‘what happened between Raheem & Gomez, we heard there was a fight’. Easy answer & we have a game to concentrate on. Incident done and dusted. No player looks any worse, we move on.
“Now Raheem is left to defend himself from all of the haters that had had their keyboards turnt [sic] off due to him becoming a very worthy ambassador for the English game, and rightly so.
“I just feel this could and should have been handled better to support the player & not hang him out to dry.
“One of our World Class players who has conducted himself wonderfully through Racism and unwarranted criticism in an England shirt will now come under more scrutiny and be vilified in the media no doubt – when this could have been dealt with internally. Hindsight is a great thing though.”