‘We back our best’: Southgate throws support behind under-fire Maguire

  • England manager stakes his ‘reputation’ on centre-back
  • Southgate says he has made compromises he now regrets

Gareth Southgate has offered his full backing to Harry Maguire as he prepares for Friday night’s Nations League tie here against Italy and the first opportunity to move on from June’s terrible start in the competition – when the England manager admits that he made mistakes.

Southgate’s team lost 1-0 in Hungary – only their second loss in 23 matches; the other had come on penalties against Italy in the Euro 2020 final. And then, after draws with Germany and Italy, they slumped to a 4-0 home reverse against Hungary, when Southgate was jeered by the crowd at Molineux.

Southgate said he had lacked ruthlessness and made compromises which he regretted, suggesting the team’s previous excellent form had taken the edge out of the environment.

But he was most interesting before the return fixture with Italy when he discussed Maguire who, after a poor season last time out, remains out of touch and under unforgiving scrutiny. The Manchester United captain has now lost his place at club level.

Southgate made the point that the situation could not go on forever, with the World Cup looming at the end of November. After Italy, England play Germany at Wembley on Monday and then it will be their opening World Cup tie against Iran.

But Southgate drew a parallel from the rugby world when he remembered how the England head coach, Eddie Jones, had stood by his Saracens stars when they were not playing at the required level after the club’s relegation in 2020.

“Eddie felt they were his best players and, although they were undercooked, they were still going to be better than players that weren’t at the level,” Southgate said. “Clearly, it’s not an ideal situation [with Maguire]. We’re only a few weeks on from pre-season so, physically, if they’ve had a few 90 minutes, that’s fine. Another seven to eight weeks, that does start to become more complicated.

Gareth Southgate is expected to revert to a back three against Italy.
Gareth Southgate is expected to revert to a back three against Italy. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

“But he is an important player for us and it’s important to back our best players. Whatever reputation I have, I’m putting it on there. He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. Him and John [Stones] are incredible with the ball – the amount of pressure they have taken for the team in tournaments because we don’t always have that midfield pivot player who can progress the game. It means there is a huge amount more pressure on our centre-backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as any in world football at doing that.”

Southgate, who is expected to revert to a back three at San Siro, stepped away from saying complacency had been an issue in June, that he had become comfortable. But the words did not seem completely inappropriate.

“We were 22 games without a loss [apart from the penalty defeat against Italy] and for everybody you think that’s just going to continue and maybe you are not quite as ruthless on certain decision making,” Southgate said.

“I compromised in one or two things. When you have a difficult run it hardens your resolve. We are very clear on why those things happened and what needs to happen to put those things right.

“Every manager makes mistakes. Every manager reflects. I am not saying I was comfortable. I was saying generally at times, when you are on a big run, you don’t dig as deep into what could be ahead and what could go wrong. The summer was really complicated but we reviewed everything and there were things we should have done better. Quite often when you win some of those things are still going on but you don’t review it with the same intensity.”


David Hytner in Milan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Harry Maguire blunders are a warning to England – right now he is not up to it | Barney Ronay
After helter skelter draw with Germany, Gareth Southgate must be ruthless and must start with one of his generals

Barney Ronay at Wembley

26, Sep, 2022 @9:35 PM

Article image
Southgate backs Maguire to shrug off criticism after red card costs England
Gareth Southgate has insisted Harry Maguire will bounce back after the defender’s dismal start to the season got worse with an early red card during England’s 1-0 defeat by Denmark

Jacob Steinberg

14, Oct, 2020 @11:00 PM

Article image
Southgate must be ruthless to elevate England – starting with Harry Maguire
The Manchester United defender is a fine team player but his lack of mobility will be exposed by the best at Germany 2024

Barney Ronay

27, Mar, 2023 @1:49 PM

Article image
Southgate is taking his biggest England gamble with loyalty to Harry Maguire | Jacob Steinberg
Manager must hope he is not burned in Qatar by keeping faith in a centre-back picked on reputation rather than form

Jacob Steinberg in Doha

20, Nov, 2022 @2:03 PM

Article image
England’s Harry Maguire intent on staying ‘normal’ after World Cup
Excellent performances in Russia by Harry Maguire led to interest from Manchester United and plenty of autograph requests for the Leicester centre-half

Daniel Taylor

04, Sep, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
Harry Maguire’s place in England squad under threat, admits Gareth Southgate
‘It’s not a situation that can continue for ever,’ warned the England manager over the defender’s lack of game time for Manchester United this season

Jacob Steinberg

24, May, 2023 @9:30 PM

Article image
Gareth Southgate casts envious eye towards Germany’s Joshua Kimmich
Manager believes the Germany playmaker is the type of midfielder Premier League academies are failing to produce

David Hytner

25, Sep, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
‘A complicated decision’: Southgate faces Maguire quandary for England
Gareth Southgate faces a ‘complicated decision’ over whether to keep faith with Harry Maguire for England after the defender’s struggles at club level

Ed Aarons

28, Mar, 2022 @9:38 PM

Article image
Southgate admits younger England players felt pressure in Nations League
Gareth Southgate has admitted some of his younger England players felt the weight of the shirt during a high-stress Nations League get-together

David Hytner

27, Sep, 2022 @9:30 PM

Article image
‘Absolute joke’: Southgate hits out at England fans who booed Harry Maguire
Gareth Southgate vented his disgust at the England fans who booed Harry Maguire before the friendly win over Ivory Coast, calling their actions ‘an absolute joke’

Nick Ames at Wembley

30, Mar, 2022 @8:36 AM