Eventually, Kosovo's more than 700-day unbeaten run came to a conclusion with a 5-3 defeat at the St Mary's stadium in Southampton on Tuesday night, but for more than 30 minutes Kosovo went toe-to-toe with former world cup winners England.
There are now no Newcastle players in the England squad, despite the club having a strong core of English talent amongst their ranks.
"In the summer we decided that he wasn't ready to start, so I don't think you can have a player that is undroppable, because that is a risky route for any team and it is not a healthy position for a player", Southgate said. With the semi-finals and final being played at Wembley, it is set to be a great summer for English sport and some of Newcastle's players will be hoping to be involved.
Sterling then turned provider for England's second, making a nifty turn at midfield and dribbling downfield before setting up Harry Kane for a cool left-footed finish to make it 2-1 inside of 20 minutes.
"So, without wishing to create a load of fuss the day before the game, I think it's safe to say we won't be dropping him tomorrow, but his level of performance is consistently so high it would be a rare occurrence".
"It was weird. The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody, so we don't need to get the video out and go back through it", the England manager said. "I think there will be a lot of passion on the pitch, a lot of speed, a lot of athleticism and I know Kosovo are also bringing big support, so I think it's going to be a really good night".
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"He [Gareth Southgate] was happy with what he saw in the first half, but he's banged on about the sloppy goals and said we've got to make teams earn their goals and we've not been doing that".
But even in defeat, it was the Kosovo fans who applauded their team off the field more vociferously. "No, but I've got to balance the two performances, the nine goals and what we've achieved this week against the obvious errors that will cost you, have cost us tonight, and of course would cost us against better opposition".
"I think it is in my philosophy that if we don't dream it is unnecessary to play such games, we should dream and do all that is possible to disturb England".
"We know it'll be a very tough game".
Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes said Sterling was one of the best players in the world on current form.
"So, we're expecting a different sort of challenge to Saturday but one that we're looking forward to".
"I think they're as exciting as anything", he added.