Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Gareth Southgate: England boss says fans' reactions creating ‘unusual environment’ – BBC


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'Unusual environment' around England – Southgate
Some England fans' reactions to the team's performances at Euro 2024 are "creating an unusual environment" which is "causing an issue for the group" says manager Gareth Southgate.
His side finished top of Group C on Tuesday after a goalless draw against Slovenia followed a 1-1 stalemate with Denmark in their previous group-stage game.
Southgate's side were booed off, and some empty cups were thrown at the Three Lions boss following another below-par display against a team ranked 57th in the world, 52 places lower than England.
"I'm not going to back away from it," he said. "The most important thing is the supporters stay with the team."
England had an early Bukayo Saka goal disallowed for offside, but did little to trouble Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Southgate said he "understands" why fans have expressed their displeasure at disappointing performances and results, which included a 1-0 success over 32nd-ranked Serbia in their opening match of the tournament.
Fans jeered England at half-time in Cologne and Southgate was met by another negative response as he went to applaud supporters at full-time, with a handful of plastic pint cups thrown in his direction.
"I understand the narrative towards me and that's better for the team than it being towards them," he added.
"But it is creating an unusual environment to operate in. I've not seen any other team qualify and receive similar. I understand it, I'm not going to back away from it, but I'm very proud of the players for how they're operating within it."
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England's performance against Denmark in their second group game was widely criticised by pundits, with captain Harry Kane calling for more positivity from the media in the build-up to Slovenia, and saying ex-players should remember how "tough" tournament football is.
Social media video from inside Cologne Stadium appeared to show some England fans swearing towards Southgate, then arguing with other supporters who felt they should be getting behind the team and the manager.
Southgate gave several post-match interviews to individual broadcasters before holding a news conference.
He told beIN Sports that "the reaction to everything" was creating "an incredible environment" and the "players are feeling that".
"I've lived in this environment for 20 years as a player and coach. We've got to keep ourselves on track and make sure the dressing room is tight."
In his news conference later, Southgate added: "We have made England over the last three or four years fun again. I think it has been enjoyable for the players and we have got to be very, very careful that it stays that way."
Southgate also revealed the responses from some supporters are "causing an issue for the group" and urged them to back the players.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I was not going to back away from going over to thank people for coming and giving the support that they did, but I know that this is causing an issue for the group.
"I can deal with that but I need them to support the players."
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford conceded England have "not played our best" and coming under fire is understandable.
"No game is easy and we are going to come under criticism – we have to deal with that. We have finished top of the group and we have not played our best," he added.
"We have got to keep a positive mindset and bring the positives. We know we weren't perfect, but we didn't get beat in three games."
Kane added: "It was a difficult night but I think it was our best performance out of the three."
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Highlights: England 0-0 Slovenia
England have managed to find a path out of their group, but they have struggled to find their best form at Euro 2024.
Their 2.26 expected goals from the three games ranked 19th among the 24 teams at the competition and they have only mustered the 17th most shots.
The Three Lions misfired again in Cologne against Slovenia, yet a defiant Southgate insisted "things are starting to come together" for his side.
"We have created some good openings and, at the moment, it is hard work for us," he told ITV Sport.
"We are not quite getting that break in front of goal. I think the players who came on did well. I understand the reactions but it is a tough environment."
Defender John Stones echoed those sentiments as he added: "I thought there was a lot of improvement from the other two games. We found people in the pockets and created more chances – another step in the right direction.
"I can get the fans' frustration, not taking chances, but that is football. It is never an easy game."
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