Jack Grealish hits out as fans as Gareth Southgate holds talks with his England players over potentially stopping taking the knee.
Loud booing could be heard around the Riverside Stadium when the Three Lions made the anti-racism gesture before Wednesday’s 1-0 friendly win against Austria.
Though it was quickly drowned out by applause from other supporters, Villa skipper Grealish admitted players were disappointed.
He said: “I was obviously aware of it, I heard it. I didn’t like it at all. None of the players like it.
“I think that will get talked about in the next few days. It’s a thing we don’t want in football in general and especially in our England games.”
Grealish captained Aston Villa when they, together with Sheffield United, became the first teams to take the knee before their Premier League fixture a year ago this month.
The gesture has gone on to have been made at every subsequent top flight fixture and international matches, England boss Southgate believes some fans do not understand the message behind the gesture.
Footballers have been taking a knee before kick off as a protest against racial inequality but Southgate said some fans view it as a “political stand” they do not agree with.
“That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other,” he said. “I was pleased it was drowned out by the majority of the crowd but we can’t deny it happened.
“It’s not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear because it feels as though it is a criticism of them.
“I think the majority of people understand it. Some people aren’t quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.
“I think the most important thing for our players to know is that all of their team-mates and staff are fully supportive.”
“It’s not something on behalf of our black players I wanted to hear because it feels as though it’s a criticism of them” 🗣
Gareth Southgate has hit out at the section of fans who booed when players took the knee before their friendly on Wednesday night pic.twitter.com/4KNnqtLYFp
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 3, 2021
Taking the knee is used as a symbol against racial inequality and has been enacted widely following the murder of George Floyd in the United States last year.
England players may reconsider taking the knee what happened in midweek, admitted Gareth Southgate. After all, they know booing is most likely not going to stop, and it’s not exactly something they want to hear before this summer’s Euro 2020 matches.
England will return to the Riverside for Sunday’s second Euro 2020 warm-up match against Romania and Southgate says he will discuss a response with the squad, which may result in a new approach going forward.
“What has happened tonight probably means I need to have another conversation with the players first and foremost because I need see how they feel about it and that’s an important discussion for us to have,” he said.
“I know there was some concern in the past in March that we were losing some of the impact, so I think after what has happened tonight we need to consider whether we continue to do the same thing, whether we do something different and I’m sure the players will have a really good view on that.”
For over the last 12 months professional footballers in England and Wales have been taking the knee prior to kick-off to highlight the ongoing fight against racism both here and abroad.
Last night, it was extremely disappointing to see a small section of England supporters booing this simple and respectful anti-racist gesture.
We cannot understand what would motivate someone to travel to the game, having paid good money for a ticket, only to boo their own players as their first contribution to the occasion.
We’d urge those present that booed the England players to seriously reflect on their behaviour and its racist impact – think about how it affects not just those players but the other England fans who’ve assembled to watch the beautiful game.
We commend those fans at the England-Austria game who upon hearing the booing reacted by applauding the players taking part in their demonstration.
Long may that continue – it is vital fans across the country continue to show players they are not alone in their fight against discrimination.
Support the team, support the players, support the knee.
– STATEMENT ENDS –
Meanwhile, Southgate has refused to rule Jordan Henderson out of England’s opening match of the tournament against Croatia on June 13.
“I don’t think it would be fair to rule him out of it,” Southgate said.
“But I think its clear to everyone how much football he has missed. The timelines are getting more difficult with each training session he might miss and to not have those match minutes tonight is a blow towards that.
“I’m being very realistic about what’s possible here. It’s a decision we took because we have been able to take extra players and we feel he is such an important influence around the place and can add value to what we are doing and if we can get him close to being able to contribute on the pitch that will be a real bonus.”
Southgate has already waved goodbye to Trent Alexander-Arnold from his squad after the right-back suffered a thigh injury against Austria, with the manager to decide a replacement after Sunday’s game.
Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse is among the five players on standby and the England manager admitted there is no better set-piece specialist in the country.
“Prowsy is the best in the league there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold’s suspected thigh injury will be assessed over the next 48 hours
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 3, 2021
Fans reacted as Jack Grealish hits out at fans and Southgate holds talks with England players on taking the knee…
@simonfinbow: I think they need to continue. Every time they get booed at another minute of kneeling!
@S4SH_P: It’s important he consults the players, but equally it shows more needs to be done!! I love watching @England live, but I couldn’t even bare to watch the game on tv after the booing. This is seriously making me contemplate whether I did want to put myself through that #Notoracism
@paulapplewood1: If Gareth Southgate really did suggest he thought the booing was directed at his black players, he is both wrong and being disingenuous.
@thepaulkerton: Gareth Southgate: England fans’ boos ‘feel like criticism’ of black players. Football still doesn’t get it. Kneeling feels like “Two fingers” to the fans who have paid to see football. When Saka scored everybody cheered. Saka is black. Nobody cares. Let football be the focus
@101Maurice: I quite like Gareth Southgate, but he’s gone down in my estimation for suggesting that fans who booed the taking of the knee the other night didn’t understand the message behind the gesture. People know only too well what it represents….. that’s why they boo.
@dave200580: Shouldn’t it be a personal decision.
@moosecatear: Ah yes. Let’s make sure racists get the last word. Perhaps revisit why people are taking the knee Gareth.
The world; ‘We need to stop racism being so prevalent within society so will use this peaceful action to showcase our support.’
Racists; ‘No, boo, stop that’.
England national team; ‘Aw sorry, we’ll stop’.
@pangy_twit: I guess there’s an argument for both. Although, if I was taking the knee, I’d want the support of my team. Also, there should be a strong message from football as a whole rather than letting individuals take the slack from the jeers. Else the racists win
@ghostboy182: Coward. You’re letting them win by doing this.
@ConorMummery: if you’re booing the taking of the knee you’re probably either mis-informed or racist, so a strange response
@DebbieTully2: Big mistake in my opinion
@OwenJamesBrown: Always thought Southgate seemed decent and reasonably smart with his man management and media comments… but this is just terrible.
@CockOnBallStory: There needs to be an end game to taking the knee. And that’s actual reform. Otherwise all we’re doing is debating the act rather than the actual point. And that suits more people than we would like to think
@EvanMcFarlane: Jesus Christ.
@MarcJWallace: Bowing to the pressure of the racist northern idiots. Patter.
By taking it twice as long and everyone’s fist in the air? https://t.co/n8r3FtpWzO
— Tom Naysmith (@tanaysmith) June 3, 2021