England manager Gareth Southgate has hit out at fans at Wembley who booed Harry Maguire during his side’s 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday night.
Maguire has been a big part of Southgate’s team since breaking into the England squad in 2017 and was at the heart of the defence that made it to the World Cup semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that level of performance at Manchester United.
The 29-year-old has come under a lot of criticism from Man Utd fans, rivals and pundits for his poor season, with the Red Devils currently outside the Champions League places and guaranteed another trophy-less season — their fifth in a row.
In the final international break of 2021, when Maguire was picked despite his poor form and responded to critics by cupping his ears after scoring against Albania, which only added to the frustration.
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Maguire was once again called up for the recent international break in spite of his club performances and was an unused substitute in the 2-1 win over Switzerland at the weekend. But Maguire started the 3-0 victory over Ivory Coast and, when the teams were read out before kick-off at Wembley, the Man Utd defender’s name was booed by a section of fans.
There were also some boos when Maguire had his first touches of the ball, and Southgate has called for more support of his players.
“I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke,” Southgate told Sky Sports after the game.
“What he’s done for us, the way he’s performed for England, has been phenomenal. I don’t get it. We’re either all in this together or we’re not.
“Not only should you support a player in an England shirt regardless, but when he’s played at the level he has, and put the performances in for us he has, it should be total commitment behind him. So I don’t get that at all.
“For his performance, pretty faultless really. Stepped out from the back really well for the first goal, was involved in the second as well. The team are totally united; we recognise everybody has difficult moments, but he’s a top player and he’ll come through it.”
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Whatever his club form, Maguire has always been a player for Southgate to depend on and is usually picked for his importance to England, something that doesn’t sit well with a number of fans who would rather players are selected purely on form. Especially during this international break, many believed AC Milan centre-back Fikayo Tomori deserved a call up for his role in helping the Rossoneri lead Serie A going into the final run in.
Nevertheless, Southgate believes any qualms of Maguire’s Man Utd form should be pushed to one side while he is representing England.
“Well they are real England fans, some are influenced by whatever, I don’t know if it’s social media, I don’t know if its players that played previously who are influencing opinion,” he added.
“Obviously the club situation is very difficult, but he’s in an England shirt.
“I remember decades ago a couple of players being booed in an England shirt, it’s never been acceptable, I’ve never got it, why are players going to play any better?
“Fans should get behind their team.”
Southgate wasn’t the only one to hit out at the fans, with Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson saying: “I can’t get my head around what happened at Wembley tonight. Harry has been a colossus for England. Without him, the progress made at the last two tournaments would not have been possible.
“To be booed at his home stadium, for no reason? What have we become? What happened tonight was just wrong. As someone who wants to win with England I feel fortunate to share a dressing room with him. We all feel the same.”
Declan Rice also called for support from the fans, tweeting: “Total embarrassment from whoever booed tonight.
“Harry Maguire has been incredible every single time he’s put on the England shirt.
Total embarrassment from whoever boo’d tonight. @HarryMaguire93 has been incredible every single time he’s put on the England shirt. Absolute nonsense now it’s becoming. Back your own players. Especially with a Major tournament coming up. https://t.co/OdqM9F0Uw8
— Declan Rice (@_DeclanRice) March 29, 2022
“Absolute nonsense now it’s becoming. Back your own players. Especially with a Major tournament coming up.”
Southgate’s players will now return to the clubs for the end of the 2021/22 season, with England next in action in June for the Uefa Nations League where they will host Hungary and Italy at Molineux while also going away to Hungary and Germany.