Gareth Southgate said the door was still “100 per cent” open to Raheem Sterling after the Chelsea forward was left out of the England squad for their final Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Southgate, whose side are already certain of their place at next year’s tournament in Germany, named a 25-man squad on Thursday for a home game against Malta on November 17 and a three-day trip to North Macedonia in after that.
Sterling, who has 82 caps and 20 goals for England, has not played for the national team since last year’s World Cup in Qatar, where England reached the quarter-finals.
“The door is 100 per cent open not just for Raheem but for other players,” Southgate said. “There’s no doubt about that.
“We don’t need to know about his quality, his personality. He’s a vital part of why we’ve had the journey we’ve had in the last few years.”
The England boss said it was difficult to leave in-form players out to accommodate Sterling, 28, who has scored four goals for Chelsea this season.
“He wasn’t available in March or June and the team went on a good run,” he said. “We won in Italy for the first time in 60 years, both performances in June were excellent, so we stayed with that group,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Raheem is dangerous for his club, he has looked lively since the start of the season.
Manchester City defender John Stones and Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah are both injured.
Chelsea captain James is fit again after a hamstring injury, but asked to be left out of the squad after being expected to replace Stones.
Southgate said: “I was hoping to call on Reece James, but he doesn’t feel he’s ready enough and I understand that.
“He’s had a long road back from some injuries and he’s cautious about that. I can understand why.”
Southgate paid tribute to Bobby Charlton, who died last month and will be honored in England’s match against Malta at Wembley.
“I think he’s respected around the world and clearly our greatest ever player when you think about not only winning the World Cup, but also winning the European Cup and everything he’s done at club level ,” he said.
“Very sad. We were lucky enough to meet him a few times and he was very humble, so yes, our condolences go out to all his family but we hope we get the chance to honor him at Wembley and it will be a celebration of life.”
Goalkeeper: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan/ITA), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City )
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid/ESP), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq/KSA), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)
Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich/GER), James Maddison (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal ), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Callum Wilson (Newcastle)
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