England manager Gareth Southgate described Wembley boos for defender Harry Maguire as an “absolute joke” after his side eased to a 3-0 win against Ivory Coast in a friendly on Tuesday.
Some sections of the crowd booed the Manchester United defender as he made his first international appearance of the year, days after a similar reaction when his name was read out as a substitute for the game against Switzerland.
Maguire has endured a difficult spell for struggling United but an angry Southgate, who described his centre-back’s performance as “pretty flawless”, said he had been badly treated by some fans.
“I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke,” he told Sky Sports. “What he’s done for us, the way he’s performed for England has been phenomenal. I don’t get it.
“We’re either all in this together or we’re not and he’s in an England shirt and not only should you support a player in an England shirt, regardless, but when he’s played at the level he has and put the performances in for us he has, it should be total commitment behind him.”
Southgate added: “I remember decades ago a couple of players being booed in an England shirt. It’s never been acceptable, I’ve never got it. Why are people going to play any better?”
The jeering of Maguire overshadowed a routine win for England, with 10 changes from the side that beat Switzerland 2-1 on Saturday.
First-half strikes from Ollie Watkins and captain Raheem Sterling either side of a red card for Ivory Coast skipper Serge Aurier put the home side in total control.
Southgate made multiple changes in the second half as he looked at some of his fringe players ahead of Friday’s World Cup draw before Tyrone Mings headed home from a corner in stoppage time.
Ivory Coast, who narrowly lost to world champions France on Friday, were without Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, who had a hamstring issue.
England took the lead in the 30th minute when Manchester City forward Sterling produced some neat trickery on the left before squaring for Aston Villa’s Watkins to tap in.
Ivory Coast—who failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar—were given a mountain to climb when Aurier was sent off by Belgian referee Erik Lambrechts five minutes before half-time for a second bookable offence.
Sterling rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds on the stroke of the break after a fluent team move.
His initial effort was kept out by goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare but Jack Grealish expertly returned the ball to his club teammate on the half-volley and Sterling finished crisply.
England lost some of their attacking zip in the second half, with Ivory Coast intent on damage limitation, before Mings’ late goal added gloss to the scoreline.