I understand it – Gareth Southgate urges fans to stick with mis-firing England

Gareth Southgate told England fans to stick with the team whatever they think of him as the under-fire boss warned that the “unusual environment” at Euro 2024 is making life harder for the players.

Having wrapped up a place in the last 16 without kicking a ball on Monday evening, the Group C finale against Slovenia offered the chance to lift the mood after an unconvincing start in Germany.

But the hard-fought 1-0 win against Serbia and alarming 1-1 draw with Denmark were followed by another disappointing night, with Southgate’s side stuttering to a 0-0 draw against stubborn opposition.

The stalemate proved enough to top the pool as the other group game also ended scoreless, but boos met the end of their second straight match.

Gareth Southgate claps the fans after England's draw with Slovenia
Gareth Southgate was almost hit by empty cups when he went to applaud the England fans (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The sense of frustration in Frankfurt turned to anger in Cologne, with Southgate feeling that fury – and seeing a few empty cups nearly hit him – when he went over to applaud the fans.

“I understand it,” he said of the reaction. “I’m not going to back away from it.

“The most important thing here is that the supporters stay with the team. I understand the sort of narrative towards me and, you know, that’s better for the team than it being towards them.

“But it is creating an unusual environment to operate in. I’ve not seen any other team qualify and receive similar.

“So, I understand it, I’m not going to back away from it, but I’m very, very proud of the players and how they are operating within it.”

Southgate also called the environment “challenging” and “tough” after a difficult night against Slovenia.

Asked to explain what is different about the environment compared to the three previous tournaments he has overseen, he said: “I think probably expectation. You know, we’ve made England over the last six or seven years fun again.

“I think it has been enjoyable for the players and we’ve got to be very, very careful that it stays that way.”

It was an eye-catching comment from Southgate, who is now waiting to find out who England will face in the last 16.

Winning Group C means a return to Gelsenkirchen, where they beat Serbia, on Sunday to take on a third-placed team.

“Yeah, I’m in a really good place,” said Southgate, who won 57 caps as a player and went to four tournaments.

“I recognise that when you have moments like at the end of the game, I’m asking the players to be fearless (so) I’m not going to back down from going over and thanking the fans, who were brilliant during the game.

“They might feel differently towards me. But, for me, we only will succeed if we’re together. So, that energy is crucial for the team and it’s so important they stay with the team, however they feel towards me.

“I get it. I’ve been around England for 20 years, so I’ve seen it. My job is to guide the team through this, get the very best out of the team and to keep this perspective for them.

“I’m very, very happy with the way they handled the last few days in particular.”