Gareth Southgate 'making a plonker of himself' over taking a knee, claims Charlie Lawson

The England manager has received criticism over continually backing footballers taking the knee

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England manager Gareth Southgate has been labelled a plonker over continually backing England players taking the knee.

Players were booed by a predominantly child audience when taking the knee in England's Nations League game against Hungary.

Southgate said this would not put his players off and blamed inherited thinking for the boos.

In England's latest game, both sets of players from the Three Lions and Germany took the knee in a show of solidarity.

But former Coronation Street actor Charlie Lawson has said Southgate is "making a plonker of himself".

Charlie Lawson and Dan Wootton
Charlie Lawson and Dan Wootton

He told GB News: "I'd suggest to Gareth that he focuses on managing the football team and shut up about the rest of the stuff because he's just making a plonker of himself.

"We all listened and we all looked and we all know black lives matter but very, very quickly it became obvious this organisation bore no resemblance to what it stood for."

The Three Lions were once again booed as they performed their pre-match anti-racism and discrimination gesture, despite the hosts being forced to play behind closed doors.

The majority of the bottom two tiers of the Puskas Arena were full for the Group A3 opener in Budapest as Dominik Szoboszlai’s second-half penalty secured a 1-0 win for the hosts.

UEFA had ordered Hungary to play three games in empty stadiums, the third of which has been suspended, following the behaviour of fans during Euro 2020.

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate

Hungary also have concurrent FIFA sanctions in place – a two-match stadium ban with a game suspended, following racist abuse aimed at England players during the 4-0 World Cup qualifying win last September.

One of the UEFA stadium bans came here against England but, while article 73 of the governing body’s disciplinary regulations caps the number of VIP guests, team delegations, UEFA staff and those holding complimentary tickets, there is no limit on the number of school children invited to the match free of charge, with one adult accompanying every 10 children.

That led to the unsavoury scenes before kick-off, with Southgate believing the thousands of children in attendance were ‘influenced’ by their elders.

“How that aligns with the decision is difficult to understand,” Southgate replied when asked if the attendance for the game makes a mockery of UEFA’s rulings.

“From a development perspective, I want and need the team to be playing in front of supporters. But of course, that’s not the point in this instance.

“So I’m torn on what we actually got from that and what the reality should have been. I think that needs some consideration without a doubt. In actual fact the atmosphere when we arrived at the stadium, there were kids lining the streets, it was really friendly.

“They were waving when we were walking out to warm up. I thought there were sort of pantomime boos when our team came out to warm up.

“That was different with the taking of the knee but that felt like inherited thinking to me. We do it to try to educate and I think young people can only be influenced by older people.

“I have no idea why people would choose to boo that gesture and very often young people can’t know why they’re doing it so they’re being influenced by older adults – everyone knows what we believe and what we stand for.

“What I would say is, I hear that still in our stadiums as well. That’s why we do it and continue to take that stand and we will keep doing that as a team.”

England’s Nations League game at home to Italy next weekend will also be played behind closed doors, at Molinuex, following the behaviour of supporters ahead of the Euro 2020 final defeat to the same opponents last summer.

The PA news agency understands there is expected to be an attendance of between 2,000-3,000 at the home of Wolves as the Football Association welcomed applications from England Football-accredited under-14 clubs within a 50-mile radius of the stadium.