Gareth Southgate has branded England fans booing Harry Maguire “an absolute joke” after he was targeted by some supporters during Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Ivory Coast.
The Manchester United defender was jeered as his name was announced in the starting line-up before kick-off at Wembley and also after his first touch in an incident which somewhat marred a routine win courtesy of goals from Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings.
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Serge Aurier was sent off five minutes before half-time as England eased to a victory in front of 73,405 fans which continues their preparations for November’s World Cup finals but Southgate was frustrated by the treatment of Maguire, who has been a mainstay of the team that reached the previous World Cup semifinals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final.
He told Sky Sports: “I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke. The way he has performed for us has been absolutely phenomenal. I don’t get it. We’re either all in this together or we’re not.
“He’s in an England shirt and not only should you support a player in an England shirt regardless, but when you’ve played at the level he has for us and put the performances in he has, it should be total commitment behind him. I don’t get it at all.
“His performance was pretty faultless really. He stepped out from the back really well for his first goal, was involved in the second one too. So, yeah. The team are totally united. We recognise everyone has difficult moments but he’s a top player and he will come through it.
“They are real England fans and some are influenced by whatever — social media or players that played previously who are influencing opinion. The club situation is obviously very difficult but he’s in an England shirt. I remember decades ago a few players being booed in an England shirt and it’s never been acceptable to me. Fans should always get behind their team.”
Southgate continued the theme in his post-match news conference, adding: “Don’t think for one minute the other players won’t be looking at that thinking ‘that could be me one day.’
“That’s been one of the problems of playing for England. Players have thought ‘do I want to go because when it turns a little bit difficult, the crowd are going to turn on me.’
“That happened with John Barnes here, that happened with Ashley Cole a couple of times, that happened with Raheem, now Harry. They are all outstanding players so how that is going to benefit anybody, I really don’t understand.
“We need a Harry Maguire playing well if we are going to have a chance of doing well this winter.
“He played well and in my opinion he is the best centre back in his club as well. Where this is all starting or being fed? I am not sure. It is ludicrous. It is like every time he steps on a football field that every action is analysed to death. I can’t remember a player having that spotlight on them at any point.”
Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish also threw his support behind Maguire.
“Personally I think it is ridiculous,” he said. “Harry has been unbelievable for this country in the World Cup, the Euros, even tonight he was brilliant. “Our first two goals come from him driving out with the ball and then him driving a bit and playing the pass to Oliie. Not every centre back can have those qualities. He’s been a fantastic servant for this country so I think it was ridiculous for him to get boos and it wasn’t something the team liked.”