Three Lions players were stunned when fans booed Maguire at Wembley, and their heated words demonstrate that the bond that Gareth Southgate rebuilt may still be strained.
Gareth Southgate has spent the previous six years attempting to mend a strained connection with England fans.
But, for 90 minutes at Wembley, it felt like a throwback to the bad old days with Harry Maguire. The Manchester United defender was subjected to the same treatment as John Barnes, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole when they were at the pinnacle of their England careers.
When Maguire’s name was called out before kick-off and when he touched the ball, the booing was deafening – and it must have been painful for a guy who has always given his all for his nation. Following that, it was more than just rallying around a popular and highly respected member of the team in the locker room.
The England players were shocked by the fans’ treatment of Maguire, and they convened for an impromptu meeting to discuss their feelings. What followed was a team’s backing done in 21st-century flair, as England stars took turns taking to social media to support Maguire under a very purposeful squad command.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, one of the game’s most prominent speakers and an unused substitute at Wembley, said: “I can’t wrap my head around what occurred at Wembley today.” For England, Harry Maguire has been a colossus. The improvement made in the last two tournaments would not have been feasible without him.
“To be booed in his own stadium for no apparent reason?” What have we evolved into? What happened tonight was completely unacceptable. As someone who wants England to win, I consider myself fortunate to share a changing room with him. “We’re all in the same boat!”
“We’ve worked hard in the last few years to restore our connection with England supporters, but hearing Harry Maguire booed at Wembley before kick-off was just not fair,” England captain Harry Kane said. The fact that he’s been fantastic on the field and given us all so many wonderful memories makes it even more difficult to comprehend. He does not deserve such a welcome. He has the complete support of the team and should have the same from every England fan.”
Declan Rice of West Ham described it as a “huge humiliation,” adding, “Harry Maguire has been incredible every single time he’s been on the England shirt.” It’s devolving into complete nonsense now. Support your own players. Especially with a significant event on the horizon.”
That was a big display of support for Maguire, who was fantastic in the 2018 World Cup and quickly became a fan favorite. However, Maguire missed the end of last season due to injury, was rushed back to participate in the Euros, did not enjoy a decent summer holiday after a turbulent year, and then ended up playing for a club that lost their manager midway through the season and replaced him with a new defensive partner.
Surely, somewhere along the line, Maguire deserves a little more time, respect, and understanding – or is it the old club loyalties that are destroying the unity and togetherness that has been essential in Southgate reuniting the fans behind England?
They chanted “Southgate, you’re the one” because England manager Gareth Southgate had re-energized the fans, and it was a brave display of fortitude to call them out after what happened at Wembley. Maguire was plainly furious and shell-shocked – his only response on social media was: “Enjoyable week playing for my nation” – but he is rarely one to speak out or raise trouble.
On his side, he recognizes that he has fallen short of his potential. No player sets out to perform poorly, but he has been paired with Raphael Varane; the duo is still new as a combination, and Ralf Rangnick has been chopping and changing his full-backs and is himself an interim manager.
That is not a good foundation for any defender to thrive on, yet that is when you need help the most. And now, perhaps Maguire’s best hope is that, in the social media age, the popular thing to do is form a strong reaction, go against the crowd, and the momentum might just see a large surge of support for the troubled defender.