LONDON • Gareth Southgate warned England to learn from their disciplinary woes after giving Harry Maguire his “full support” following the Manchester United captain’s dismissal in Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat against Denmark.
The Three Lions suffered their first defeat for a year as the defender was sent off for two first-half bookings before Christian Eriksen’s penalty sealed the Nations League points for Denmark.
Adding to the growing sense that Southgate is struggling to keep his players under control, Chelsea right-back Reece James marred his first England start when he was sent off after the final whistle for confronting referee Jesus Gil.
Following hot on the heels of Kyle Walker’s dismissal against Iceland last month, England have had three players sent off in a calendar year for the first time.
The rash of red cards comes amid off-field issues in which their players have shown questionable judgment this year.
Maguire was given a suspended sentence of 21 months and 10 days in prison after being found guilty of repeated bodily harm, attempted bribery and violence against public employees on the Greek island of Mykonos in August.
The conviction was nullified after he appealed, but the incident was followed by Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood being sent home from Iceland after breaching coronavirus protocols by inviting local women back to the team’s hotel.
Tammy Abraham, Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell missed last week’s friendly against Wales after ignoring social distancing rules to attend a party.
It is an alarming sequence and Southgate conceded England’s players had only themselves to blame.
“It’s an obvious question we’re going to be asked. We’ve put ourselves in unnecessary positions off the pitch,” he said. “Of course there have been things that haven’t been right. We have addressed them.
“The reds for Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire here, one yellow justified, one not so sure.
“We’ve got to learn from it because if you go down to 10, historically that means we’re out, especially if you’re doing it for an hour.
“We talked all the time about discipline because we knew it cost us in other tournaments.”
But Southgate also made it clear Maguire could count on his backing.
For me, he is a massive part of what we do and he is going through a period where a lot of stick is coming his way. He has our full support.
“For me, he is a top player, a massive part of what we do and he is going through a period where a lot of stick is coming his way,” he said.
“He has our full support and I know his club will be the same. We have total belief in him.”
Insisting Maguire would not be fazed by his troubles, Southgate added: “None of us want to be part of that storm. His profile has changed over the last couple of years because of the club he plays at.
“He is having one of those periods where things are going against him but things will turn.”
On James’ rush of blood, the England boss said: “That’s a lesson he’s got to learn. It’s ended up something that shouldn’t have happened but for the overall week, he’s made a positive impression.”
After the boost of defeating top-ranked Belgium on Sunday, this tepid display was a step back.
Southgate again sent out a cautious line-up with two holding midfielders and three centre-backs, while in-form Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish was left out.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane, yet to be fully fit, played the entire match despite his club manager Jose Mourinho’s plea.
Southgate defended his team selection, saying: “I was very proud of the performance. I thought we were excellent with 11 men and causing them all sorts of problems down our right-hand side.
“The sending-off alters everything. I don’t see the foul at all.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS