Gareth Southgate explains Raheem Sterling omission from England squad
Gareth Southgate has revealed that Raheem Sterling did not make his 25-man England squad for the March international break to due fitness concerns.
Sterling has endured a difficult first season at new club Chelsea, struggling for form and playing time for a lengthy period under Graham Potter. At international level, however, Sterling has always been one of the most consistent performers under Southgate, most notably at international tournaments where England relied on his goalscoring output.
The England manager revealed in his squad announcement press conference that Sterling's exclusion is not down to form, but rather fitness, after the Chelsea winger missed his side's recent win over Leicester with a hamstring complaint.
"Raheem is not fit. I would have selected him if he was," Southgate confirmed.
Southgate also discussed the inclusion of Ivan Toney and Kyle Walker. Toney is under investigation for alleged breaches of FA betting rules, while Walker is under investigation by the police for indecent exposure.
On Toney, Southgate said: "He is playing for his club and available for them. There hasn't been a trial or any judgement so I don't know on what basis we wouldn't pick him.
"Ivan has been consistent across the season. He is playing really well. I like his presence in games. I saw his game against Arsenal where he was outstanding and he deserves his opportunity."
The Three Lions manager stated that there was no 'conclusive evidence' that would lead to Walker being left out of the squad: "It is a complicated situation and I have spoken at length with him. There is no conclusive evidence to leave him out at this stage.
"I have to be very careful not to be the moral judge on things. We want him with us and fell it is the right thing to do. When you are an England international there is an even higher bar on how your conduct yourself."
England's 25-player squad in full
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Reece James (Chelsea) John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Luke Shaw (Mancheste United)
Midfielders: Declan Rice (West Ham United), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester City)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford)