Raheem Sterling admitted he would have had no cause for complaint if Gareth Southgate had dropped him for England’s friendly with Nigeria on Saturday.
After dominating the headlines in the build-up to the game following a controversial tattoo and the revelation that he was late to arrive for England’s training camp, Sterling was named in the starting XI at Wembley.
The Manchester City star delivered a lively display in his side’s 2-1 World Cup warm-up win, although he was booked in the second half for diving.
Southgate defended his decision to call on Sterling, who himself appears to have been braced for a stint on the sidelines following his tardiness in returning from holiday last month.
Speaking to ITV about his manager, Sterling said: “He’s honest, he tells you his exact mind.
“If I got left out I wouldn’t have any complaints because I had to meet up at 11 o’clock, my flight got delayed and I was a bit late in the morning, so I completely understand where he’s coming from and I have to go out there and show him what I’m capable of doing.
“It was amazing to get on the pitch, that’s all we work for is to be on the pitch week in, week out, and it was just really nice to get on the pitch and get the win.
“I should have scored, there was one stuck under my feet and one where the ball was a bit more in front of me and I had to check back, but that’s how it goes.
“The most important thing is we won the game, we started strong and now to build on to the next game.”
— England (@England) June 1, 2018
On the storm of criticism that has come his way from certain quarters for his choice of body art, Sterling added: “People will see stuff in the wrong way, but I’m just looking to get over it and just concentrate on football.
“That’s what I came here to do, is just come here and try to express my talent and try to win football matches for this country.
“It’s a distraction you don’t need, but it’s one of those I’ve learnt to deal with and block it out. I don’t really think about it, I’m just looking forward to getting on the pitch.”
England play Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday before flying out to Russia, where Tunisia, Panama and Belgium await in Group G.
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