Gareth Southgate refused to name his England captain on the eve of the Nations League semi-final clash with Holland as Raheem Sterling revealed he was left “fuming” by claims he would skipper the side.
The Three Lions take on Ronald Koeman’s Holland in Guimaraes on Thursday night with hosts Portugal waiting for the winners in the final.
A press release circulated late on Tuesday evening suggested Sterling would lead out the Three Lions to mark the occasion of his 50th cap.
There was no official confirmation from the Football Association at the time, while Southgate remained tight-lipped over who would wear the armband when he addressed the media at his pre-match press conference.
The press release read: “The Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year is set to wear the Captain’s armband for England’s UEFA Nations League semi-final fixture against The Netherlands in Portugal, on Thursday evening, 6th June.”
But, amid reports the Manchester City man will captain the side, Sterling insisted he knew nothing of the release and had not spoken to anyone, including Southgate, before Tuesday evening – revealing he apologised to the England boss when he realised what had happened.
“I couldn’t tell you that,” Sterling replied when asked what had prompted the release of the statement.
“I woke up this morning fuming. I hadn’t had a conversation with Gareth or anyone in my agency, so it was a strange one to wake up to.
“The first thing I did after I came off the phone to my agent was see Gareth down the hallway, and I apologised to him for what had happened. I don’t know where that’s come from.”
Southgate would not be drawn on who would captain his side in Guimaraes, given there are fitness concerns over regular skipper Harry Kane.
The Tottenham forward appeared jaded as he made his first start for seven weeks in Saturday’s 2-0 Champions League defeat to Liverpool.
Southgate refused to rule Kane out of the contest against the Dutch and would not give away any of his team selection in advance so as not to give Holland boss Ronald Koeman an advantage.
“If I confirm anything about the team other than that Raheem is playing, I’m doing half of Ronald’s job for him,” he said.
“I don’t want to discuss the captaincy. Harry Kane is our captain. If he doesn’t play, then I have a decision to make. I’m not prepared to say whether Harry Kane is playing tomorrow.”