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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Southgate reveals abuse over COVID-19 jab push

5:51 AM ET

James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC

Gareth Southgate has claimed he received more abuse after appearing in a video encouraging people to take a COVID-19 vaccine than for any decision he made during England’s run at Euro 2020.

England lost the final in agonising fashion on penalties to Italy as Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford all missed in the shootout.

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It was the England men’s first appearance in a major tournament final for 55 years and although that achievement brought much of the country together in support of the team, Southgate had to deal with a series of issues.

The squad was criticised in some quarters for taking a knee before matches while some of Southgate’s team selections were labelled excessive cautious given his sparing use of Jack Grealish — who later joined Manchester City from Aston Villa in a British record £100 million.

The trio who failed in the penalty shootout were subjected to online racist abuse with Southgate also questioned over exposing Saka, in particular, to such pressure, given he was a teenager making only his ninth international appearance.

Yet after naming his squad for the upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland, Southgate said he was faced the most vitriol for answering a request from the National Health Service to appear in a short film promoting vaccine take-up which was released shortly after Euro 2020.

Many footballers have so far declined to be vaccinated and Southgate said: “I think the [Premier League] captains had a call with [the government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer] Jonathan Van-Tam, from what I read.

“So I think that information from a sort of chief medical perspective was delivered and my understanding, although I’ve not spoken to people at every club is that, the take up has been very varied across different clubs.

“I’m not really 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 that I’ve received abuse for over the summer, of which there’s been several, that’s probably the one I’ve received the most abuse over. So I’m probably going to keep out of that argument for the time being.”

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