Gareth Southgate says England united on racism for European Qualifiers
By Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 10/10/19 10:18pm
England manager Gareth Southgate insists his squad is "100 per cent united" in how they would react to racism in their upcoming European Qualifiers.
The England squad have agreed they will collectively abandon a game if any of their players are subjected to repeated racist abuse, with Monday's trip to Bulgaria under intense scrutiny.
Southgate held a team meeting earlier this week to discuss what action should be taken and it is understood the squad will follow UEFA's three-step protocol, which includes issuing warnings to the crowd before a match is called off.
Tammy Abraham has suggested he would be prepared to walk off the pitch before the three-step protocol is completed but Southgate insists the Chelsea striker is not in disagreement with the rest of the squad.
"What we will experience as a group over the next few days are a huge number of questions and anybody that gets one slight nuance that is adrift of the general feeling of what was discussed as a group is going to be flagged as a possible disagreement," said Southgate, ahead of Friday's game against Czech Republic.
"That is absolutely not the case, everybody is very clear. I'm so conscience, my players are being put in very difficult situations every time they are questioned on the subject.
"You feel that one word out of place or one incorrect phrasing leads to possible problems that could be flagged towards another team, made to make a story towards another team or potentially made to look as if there's a split or a disagreement in our camp.
"We're 100 per cent united on how we see things."
Raheem Sterling was among a number of England players who were subjected to racist abuse in a European Qualifier against Montenegro earlier this year.
The Manchester City forward admits he was unaware of UEFA's protocols at the time but is now willing to support them.
"As a player, with the situation happening in Montenegro, I don't think as a team we were quite prepared and had known that there was a protocol in place," he said.
"We had a meeting as a group, Gareth sat us down and explained UEFA's protocols.
"Now as players we have to give UEFA a chance to take that responsibility on board and deal with the situation. At this moment in time, I have full faith in UEFA."
The Bulgarian FA president, Borislav Mihaylov, has criticised England for voicing their concerns over racism in the build-up to the match and Southgate says he understands their frustrations.
"I can totally understand why the Bulgarian president would feel as he does because we have purely been responding honestly to questions we've been asked," said Southgate.
"That will then be relayed, however it might be relayed, in Bulgaria and the way that is pitched could appear provocative or appear that we're the people that are laying the subject on the table.
"If I was him and only reading those quotes and not knowing the context of why those things were said and the responses were said, then I would feel probably as he does.
"We are not trying to create a situation at all, far from it, we're all hoping that over the next 72 hours we're just talking about two football matches. Both countries have a strong desire for that."