Gareth Southgate has revealed that he received more abuse for recording a video urging young people to have a Covid-19 vaccination than he did for his management of England during their run to the final of Euro 2020.
England’s manager, who handed Leeds United’s Patrick Bamfordwhen he named his squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Poland and Andorra, admitted he is worried about misinformation on social media convincing some footballers not to have the jab.
However, Southgate, who recalled Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jesse Lingard, was reluctant to offer a strong view on an increasingly sensitive topic after he was met with an angry reaction for joining a government campaign aimed at increasing vaccine uptake among young people.
“I’m not going to get too involved in this because I was asked to do a video supporting the vaccination programme, which I thought was responsible, and of all the things I received abuse for over the summer – of which there’s been several – that’s probably the one I’ve received the most abuse over,” Southgate said. “I’m probably going to keep out of that argument for the time being.
“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 as well. I’m comfortable with that but I’m not going to town on things like the vaccine. 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 is supportive of the vaccine. “Our only way out of this pandemic across the world are the vaccinations, certainly for the vulnerable people,” he said. “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. There are all sorts of campaigns.
“But I think there is a slight concern that one or two younger players – Dean Henderson, Karl Darlow – have really suffered with the virus. 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.”
Southgate, who is confidentwill not suffer a hangover from their defeat to Italy in the final of the European Championship, praised Bamford after including the striker at the expense of Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood. “He’s a good finisher,” he said. “He’s had to overcome a lot of doubts.”
England, who have a 100% record from their first three games in qualifying for Qatar 2022, are without the injured Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford. There was no place in the squad for Ben White and Ben Chilwell, who were part of the group at the Euros.