The case for and case against Raheem Sterling being in the England squad

The case for and case against Raheem Sterling being in the England squad

Should he be in the England squad or should he not? Raheem Sterling is not in Gareth Southgate‘s latest selection for the current international break – despite a return to form for Chelsea. Southgate insists the five-goal, two-assist winger can still work his way back into the final 23-man squad for Euro 2024 next summer but is he worthy of a place? Express Sport’s chief sports writer Neil Squires and sports reporter Matthew Dunn argue the cases for and against him being back with the Three Lions…

The case for – Matthew Dunn

A year ago today when Raheem Sterling flew out for sunnier climes it was to become one of the top performers of England’s World Cup efforts in Qatar. Now the only jet-setting he is likely to do is off on holiday.

Gareth Southgate did not want to hand the Chelsea star the ignominy of being a late-call up for the injuries that were bound to hit the squad at this time of year because he knew that patching up his initial sleight would only make the awkwardness more intense. Even so, he cannot stop Sterling’s continued absence from the England set-up since Qatar from being the topic of conversation.

Having watched his last two showcase performances for a slowly-developing Chelsea side against top quality opposition in Tottenham and Manchester City, it is clear to see that Sterling has not given up on a Euro 2024. My guess is that when the internationals come around against the appetisingly strong opponents lined up for March, Belgium and Brazil, Sterling’s name will not only be in the squad, but probably even on the squad sheet.

Moreover, he will be hungrier for his absence, still only 29 and with 100 caps in his sight. Space, of course, is limited. But only Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and a fit Bukayo Saka are shoo-ins for Germany among the attacking talent.

It leaves Marcus Rashford clinging on to the final forward spot – a player who notoriously has great days and those evenings when he tends to disappear. Sterling has the experience to make sure his performances count, even if he is not flying past his opposite number but relying on his vision to bring others into the game.

He is also a leader for some of the younger players who have grown up watching him blazing that trail as Southgate’s most regular player behind Harry Kane. When it comes to the numbers, the England manager is learning there are only so many full-backs and centre-backs he needs when they all cover each other anyway.

No wonder. He had played extremely well. But there is not much point adding someone with 82 caps for his country to the England squad for the qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia if they are not going to play.

For Sterling to come in, someone else has to make way and that would have been rough on Rashford who more than justified his England place at Wembley a month ago. Whatever his issues in a struggling Manchester United side, he looked good alongside Harry Kane in one of England’s best performances under Southgate.

In the race for a place on the left side of the England attack, there is a stronger argument for omitting Jack Grealish but, again, the Manchester City man, however peripheral his season at club level, has done little wrong when Southgate has called upon him.

With Sterling prowling restlessly for a recall, both Rashford and Grealish know full well that they have to keep performing for England but that is a good thing. It will help to drive the team forward. There may come a point where his performances at Chelsea are so off the scale that he smashes the door down but he is not there yet.

He still has time before the Euros finals. But having turned down a place in the squad in June, Sterling placed himself at the back of the queue. He will just have to wait his turn.