GUIMARAES, Portugal (Reuters) - England forward Raheem Sterling said he was left “fuming” after his PR company issued a release suggesting that he would be captaining England in Thursday’s Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands.
The press release was issued on Tuesday by Colossal Sports Management, who represent Sterling’s management company, saying he would be wearing the skipper’s armband in what will be his 50th appearance.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane is England’s usual captain and would be expected to assume the role should he start against the Netherlands.
The statement was therefore surprising given that England manager Gareth Southgate rarely indicates his team selection choices ahead of competitive games and it would be normal practice for him or the Football Association to announce any captaincy decision.
At a scheduled news conference on Wednesday, Southgate said: “I don’t want to discuss the captaincy. Harry Kane is our captain and if he doesn’t play I have a decision to make. But if I tell you Harry Kane isn’t playing I’m doing half of (Dutch manager) Ronald (Koeman’s) job for him.”
Questioned about the situation, Sterling said: “ I woke up this morning fuming. I haven’t had a conversation with Gareth or anyone in my agency. It was a strange one for me to wake up and see that.”
Kane and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson would be ahead of Sterling for the skipper’s role, but they were among those involved in the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday.
“I have to assess all the players who were involved in the Champions League final in Madrid. It was a unique game in unique circumstances. The players only arrived on Tuesday and there has been some tactical work going on. They are all available though,” he said.
“It’s been a different preparation. But there are always complications. We have shown incredible adaptability as a team over the last two years,” added Southgate.
Kane is fit to play after returning to action following a seven-week ankle injury layoff but he looked short of match sharpness in Madrid and it would not be a surprise if he started on the bench.
“He finished the game the other day and he has no issues. I sit with everybody that walks through the door and you are assessing where they are physically and psychologically,” Southgate said.
“The Liverpool players have had one of the biggest nights of their lives, and the parade after, so all of those guys have been through a lot,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis