Earlier, Southgate said that Sterling was likely to be dropped for the lateness before the row blew up over his tattoo and the Football Association and its manager felt it necessary to back him for the benefit of the squad. Southgate had considered dropping Sterling for the Nigeria clash, but after what the England manager perceived as unfair criticism of the tattoo, he decided it was right to stand by his man. He understands how some people have perceived the tattoo.
"Raheem is a very strong character".
On Saturday, Mikel skippered a Nigeria side that lost 2-1 to a youthful Three Lions setup at Wembley, in a penultimate friendly for both sides before they get their campaign in Russian Federation underway. In my view a tattoo is like any work of art - it is a very individual meaning, the intent is all with the individual and person.
"I think the personal story of a lot of our players is quite remarkable".
'In fairness to him, he wanted to apologise to the group, explained his commitment to the team, and it's done, ' Southgate said.
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"People highlight the issues and faults of all of the squad but for so many of them it's incredible that they have got to the point they have".
"They are a great example to young kids of what you can achieve with your life if you are dedicated, if you are focused. Raheem embodies that. Nothing is given to you in life and you have to fight all the way".
England midfielder Jesse Lingard, who plays for City rival Manchester United, said he and others have "reassured" Sterling this week because "that's what friends are for". And we discussed it as a group and moved on.
Southgate added that he does not like "codes of conducts" and questioned why this issue had come about on the eve of the World Cup, but he believes Sterling is capable of moving on swiftly. That's the world we're in.
"I had a decision to make on whether to play him after turning up late, but actually that wasn't a decision once he started to come under fire from every other direction", he said.
"All of our attacking players have different attributes or strengths".