Gareth Southgate says he has received abuse after supporting Covid vaccine and players taking the knee
The England boss admits he is now reluctant to discuss issues like the vaccine due to the number of abusive letters he gets
Southgate took part in a government campaign promoting the Covid vaccine (Photo: Reuters)
England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he received substantial abuse during the summer even though he led the national team to their first major tournament final in 55 years.
Southgate and his squad came within a penalty shoot-out of winning the country’s first European Championship trophy and first silverware since England lifted the 1966 World Cup. They were beaten on penalties by Italy at Wembley.
Indeed, England have reached at least the semi-finals of the last three tournaments with Southgate in charge – making the last four at the 2018 Russia World Cup, the last four of the Nations League finals and then finishing runner-up at Euro 2020 – but that has not made the manager immune from abuse.
“I’ve accepted it’s part of the job, that is the nature of the job, and of course when you want to try to make a difference, and take the right sort of stance on taking the knee and other things, then you know you are not going to please everybody and there are extreme views on lots of those subjects,” Southgate said.
“I’m comfortable with that but I’m not going to town on things like the vaccine in particular, I’m always happy to support the greater good, and I think that’s right. I’m not the one who has to open some of that mail and some of those emails because my poor secretary has dealt with quite a lot of that, so that is the reality.”
Southgate explained that he had been most criticised after agreeing to support a government campaign encouraging people to have the coronavirus vaccine. At the end of July, 12 days after the final, Southgate, 50, appeared in a video released by Downing Street in which he urged young people to get the jab to “get your freedom back”.
“I was asked to do a video supporting the vaccination programme, which I thought was responsible, and of all the things that I’ve received abuse for over the summer, of which there’s been several, that’s probably the one I’ve received the most abuse over,” he said. “So I’m probably going to keep out of that argument for the time being.”
He was, however, asked about his stance on Premier League footballers taking the vaccine and insisted it was up to individuals, pointing out that Premier League captains had held a virtual meeting with deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam.
“My understanding, although I’ve not spoken to people every club is that, the take up has been very varied across different clubs,” he said.
“With the vaccines it’s very much an individual situation. Our only way out of this pandemic across the world are the vaccinations, certainly for the vulnerable people.
“I understand a lot of young people aren’t so keen, they are questioning things, I don’t know whether that is accurate or not. I never know now what to believe on social media: what’s news, what’s fake news. So there are all sorts of campaigns.
“But I think there is a slight concern that one or two younger players – [Manchester United goalkeeper] Dean Henderson and [Newcastle goalkeeper] Karl Darlow – have really suffered with the virus. So it’s not necessarily accurate to say that as a young person you are not going to have complicated symptoms.
“But I know the take-up is very varied across clubs and that’s for individuals. If they are over 18 then they have the right to make their own decisions. No-one is saying they have to but I think as we go through the season some of the quarantining issues with Europe and everything else are going to be more complicated if you are not vaccinated. So I don’t know if that will play a factor in how clubs feel.”