Gareth Southgate labels booing of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire as 'absolute joke'

Harry Maguire Credit: PA Images

Gareth Southgate said it was an "absolute joke" that Harry Maguire was jeered by some England fans at the friendly against Ivory Coast.

Under-fire Manchester United captain Maguire was among those brought onto the pitch, after Southgate made changes following the 2-1 win against Switzerland at the weekend.

Maguire was greeted by a smattering of boos at Wembley during the match on Tuesday 29 March, where his name received a similar reaction on Saturday.

Team-mate and Manchester City player Jack Grealish called the treatment of his fellow player "ridiculous".

Gareth Southgate said the jeering was an "absolute joke". Credit: PA

There were even some jeers during the defender’s first few touches of the ball in the 3-0 win against 10-man Ivory Coast – a baffling reaction that infuriated England’s manager."I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke," he told Sky Sports."What he has done for us, the way he has performed for England, I don’t get it. We are either in this all together or we are not."

Despite the jeers, Maguire tweeted to say that he had enjoyed playing for England.

Boss Gareth Southgate said not only was the abuse of Maguire unacceptable, but it was damaging to the rest of the England squad.

"I don’t understand how it benefits anybody because we’re either all in it together or we’re not," the England boss said on a night when Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings scored for the hosts."I would imagine if you asked a few actually why were they doing that they might not even be able to answer because it becomes a mob mentality."Of course at one end of the ground we’ve got a hardcore section of fans who are playing his song and trying to get his name sung, so I’m very aware it’s not everybody."But we’re either all in this together or we’re not, and don’t think for one minute the other players won’t be looking at that thinking ‘that could be me one day’."It’s almost like every time he steps on a football pitch every action is analysed to death. I can’t remember a player having that sort of spotlight on them at any point.”

Maguire's team-mate Jack Grealish said the reaction was "ridiculous". Credit: PA

Those sentiments were shared in the dressing room, with Grealish mystified by the reaction."Personally I think it’s ridiculous," he said. "Harry’s been unbelievable for this country in the World Cup, the Euros. I think even tonight he was brilliant. Our first two goals come from him."The first one him driving out with the ball and the second comes from him driving a little bit and then playing the pass into Ollie.

"Not every centre-back can have those qualities. He’s been a fantastic servant for this country and he’s been brilliant, so I think it was ridiculous for him to get booed and it wasn’t something that the team liked."