Gareth Southgate furious with ‘big agenda’ as England slump again; reacts to fans’ San Siro booing

Gareth Southgate England Italy September 2022

Under-fire England manager Gareth Southgate says he has never known a player to be treated like Harry Maguire has and has blasted the “big agenda” against the defender.

Maguire was picked in Southgate’s back three as England lost 1-0 to Italy in Milan on Friday night. And the Manchester United man’s name was sung by the 4,415 travelling fans in an expression of support that followed Southgate’s public backing on Thursday.

But Maguire has been facing a barrage of criticism at club level.

Maguire was dropped from the United XI following the season-opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford. Summer signing Lisandro Martinez has replaced him alongside Raphael Varane. And Southgate believes there is a “big agenda” against the 29-year-old.

Southgate though has kept his trust in the he former Leicester City defender. And he has flown against what his ethos was soon after taking over in 2017 when he said he would not pick his teams on “reputation”.

Maguire did repay him with a solid showing against the Azzurri. It was England’s attacking players who failed to deliver in a system which failed to offer any attacking threats.

A fifth straight match without a win means Southgate’s men have been relegated from Group A of the Nations League. They have also gone five matches without a win for the first time since 2014. And they have also failed to score in three games, the first time this has happened since 2000.

Players ‘undercooked’

“They are probably a bit undercooked in terms of the number of matches they’ve had,” Southgate told Channel 4, discussing players who have not been playing regularly for their clubs this season.

“But, for some reason there’s a big agenda with Harry Maguire and a big agenda against him.

“I’ve never known a player receive the sort of treatment that he has.

“He’s been a crucial part of us getting to a World Cup semi-final, he was named in the Team of the Tournament at the Euros.

“He knows what we think of him. He’s been, basically across that period, our most important defender.

“You always have to back your judgement and we feel he is an important player.

“If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above him there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way.

“He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. Him and John [Stones] are incredible with the ball.”

Southgate booed

Just 59 days out from their World Cup opener against Iran some of England’s travelling fans booed Southgate at full-time.

“Look, really difficult to pinpoint why we’re not scoring because I think we’re getting into the right areas,” the England manager said.

“We had the moments we would have had in the past. We just didn’t deliver that final piece of quality tonight.

“I understand the reaction at the end because that’s the results we’ve had in this competition and, yeah, it’s an understandable emotional reaction.”

Italy will not be at the World Cup this winter and boss Roberto Mancini said his side’s victory was “deserved”.

“We defeated England, which is one of the strongest national teams in the world,” he said. “The game system does not matter.

“What matters is the personality that a team has, the desire to attack and stay high – and we were very good in this sense. The victory was deserved.”