Gareth Southgate should not shoulder blame for England’s dip – Raheem Sterling

England Training and Press Conference – Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground
(Image credit: Zac Goodwin)

Raheem Sterling believes England’s players must shoulder the blame for the recent run of poor results, labelling criticism of manager Gareth Southgate as “unfair”.

England face Germany on Monday night in their final game before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November.

It is the last game of a Nations League campaign in which Southgate’s side have taken two points from their five games, failing to score from open play and being relegated from League A as a result.

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The form and performances have led to the first widespread criticism Southgate has received since he took the job in 2016, with supporters jeering him during both a 4-0 loss to Hungary in June and following a 1-0 reverse away to Italy on Friday night.

But Sterling, who will pick up his 79th England cap in the clash with Germany at Wembley, feels the barbs aimed at Southgate are unjust.

Asked what he made of the criticism of Southgate, the Chelsea forward replied: “That’s what comes with football at the highest level.

“You are right under the eye. A lot of it has been unfair but that’s the level we are at with England. We are under that pressure to win and a small loss of form is not something to panic about.

Italy v England – UEFA Nations League – Group 3 – San Siro

Southgate and England faced criticism following the defeat in Italy (Nick Potts/PA)

“We have a huge opportunity to come in the winter. We can show what we can do again.

“What Gareth has done – with a semi-final (at the 2018 World Cup) and a final (at Euro 2020) – that just shows the direction we are going in. Yes, we are not at the level we know we should be but we have positives to look at.”

However, Sterling could not put his finger on why things have gone off the rails for an England side which came within a penalty shoot-out of winning Euro 2020 just 14 months ago.

“I can’t put it down to anything,” he said. “In football there are ups and downs. We have been, over the last couple of years, on quite good form and this is one of those times when it’s not quite going as we planned.

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“Individual performances haven’t been up to par and I take responsibility for my performances. It’s not a time to panic.

“Since the manager has come in he has always tried to make the environment calm for us so we can do what we do on the field.

“After the summer we came away and had a look at ourselves and none of us were proud, it is not for Gareth to shoulder the blame.

“We have players that can take responsibility as well and it starts with these performances. We are not there to partake, we want to win things.”

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Despite the recent issues, Sterling still feels England can enjoy a fine World Cup, adding: “The boys are close. It’s been a tough time but none of the boys are thinking we don’t have a good chance in the winter.

“That is the belief we have in the group. The results don’t show that now but I have belief that we will have a good one. We have good things to come.

“It is a mid-season that the World Cup comes now, it’s not something that we’re used to. It’s a new thing for us. But as I keep saying, as a national team I don’t think it’s one we need to panic about.

“It’s a fresh start when we do go to the World Cup and I know the boys have been in this scenario before and we will come good.”

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