Gareth Southgate has admitted he “sadly” anticipated further pushback from spectators over England’s continued decision to take the knee in protest against racism ahead of their 1-0 friendly win over Romania on Sunday – but vowed that his squad will continue with the gesture.
Following a concentrated chorus of boos during the Three Lions’ game against Austria on Wednesday, the 50-year-old firmly backed his side, earning another vocal response from detractors over the weekend.
Speaking afterwards, Southgate acknowledged he expected the continued boos from certain areas of England’s support, but that his group have accepted this and remain determined to not yield.
“I sadly sort of expected what happened to happen,” the manager told his post-match press conference. “We’ve accepted that, as a group. It’s not going to stop what we are doing and what we believe. It’s certainly not going to stop my support for our players and our staff.
“That’s it, we are going to have to live with that. We’ve said what we are going to say now. You’re right to ask the question today but moving forward, it is pointless me going into any further detail on it.”
With Kane not risked ahead of next weekend’s tournament opener against Croatia at Wembley, Southgate turned to Rashford to skipper the side, with the Manchester United forward rewarding his faith from the penalty spot.
“Well, the captaincy really, by far he was our most experienced international player in terms of caps and we felt that would be the right decision,” the Three Lions boss added when asked about his choice.”He was obviously delighted to get that news this morning.”
Southgate will not have learned too much from a pair of scruffy warm-up victories at his old stomping ground of Middlesbrough, but nevertheless will have a clearer idea of who will feature on Sunday when his side face their World Cup vanquishers three years on from Russia 2018.
One name now in contention is Brighton’s Ben White, who has been called up as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s replacement, ahead of midfielder James Ward-Prowse and the attacking duo of Jesse Lingard and Ollie Watkins.