Gareth Southgate said it was an “absolute joke” that Harry Maguire was jeered by some England fans and Jack Grealish called the treatment of his team-mate “ridiculous”.
Having kicked off World Cup preparations with a 2-1 comeback win against Switzerland at the weekend, the Three Lions boss made 10 changes for the friendly against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
Under-fire Manchester United captain Maguire was among those brought in and was greeted by a smattering of boos at Wembley, where his name had received a similar reaction on Saturday.
There were even some jeers during the defender’s first few touches of the ball in the 3-0 win against 10-man Ivory Coast – a baffling reaction that infuriated England’s manager.
“I thought the reception was a joke, an absolute joke,” he told Sky Sports.
“What he has done for us, the way he has performed for England, I don’t get it. We are either in this all together or we are not.”
Southgate not only felt the abuse of Maguire unacceptable but damaging to the rest of the England squad.
“I don’t understand how it benefits anybody because we’re either all in it together or we’re not,” the England boss said on a night when Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings scored for the hosts.
“I would imagine if you asked a few actually why were they doing that they might not even be able to answer because it becomes a mob mentality.
“Of course at one end of the ground we’ve got a hardcore section of fans who are playing his song and trying to get his name sung, so I’m very aware it’s not everybody.
“But we’re either all in this together or we’re not, and don’t think for one minute the other players won’t be looking at that thinking ‘that could be me one day’.
“That’s been one of the problems with playing for England. Players have thought ‘hmmm, do I want to go because when it turns a little bit difficult then the crowd are going to turn on me’.
“That happened with John Barnes here, that happened with Ashley Cole a couple of times, it happened with Raheem, now Harry. They’re all outstanding players so how that is going to benefit anybody I really don’t understand.
“We’re united as a team. We need a Harry Maguire playing well if we’re going to have a chance of doing well (in the winter) because we’re not going to win a World Cup with a load of players that have got three or four caps.
“That’s not happened in the history of the game so we need our experienced players playing well, particularly in those positions of the field. He’s top quality. In my opinion, he’s the best centre-back at his club as well. Where this is all starting or being fed (from), I’m not sure but it’s ludicrous.
“It’s almost like every time he steps on a football pitch every action is analysed to death. I can’t remember a player having that sort of spotlight on them at any point.”
Those sentiments were shared in the dressing room, with Grealish mystified by the reaction.
“Personally I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “Harry’s been unbelievable for this country in the World Cup, the Euros. I think even tonight he was brilliant. Our first two goals come from him.
“The first one him driving out with the ball and the second comes from him driving a little bit and then playing the pass into Ollie. Not every centre-back can have those qualities. He’s been a fantastic servant for this country and he’s been brilliant, so I think it was ridiculous for him to get booed and it wasn’t something that the team liked.”
England skipper Harry Kane and midfielder Declan Rice also spoke out on the matter, via Twitter.
Kane said: “We’ve worked hard to rebuild our connection with @England fans in the last few years so to hear @HarryMaguire93 booed at Wembley before kick off was just not right.
“The fact that he’s been brilliant on the pitch and given us all so many great memories makes it even harder to understand. He doesn’t deserve that reception. He’s got full support in the changing room and should have the same from every England fan.”
Rice said: “Total embarrassment from whoever boo’d tonight. @HarryMaguire93 has been incredible every single time he’s put on the England shirt. Absolute nonsense now it’s becoming. Back your own players. Especially with a major tournament coming up.”
Ivory Coast head coach Patrice Beaumelle felt Segie Aurier’s first-half red card “killed the spectacle” on a night when injury prevented Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha from facing the country he used to represent.
“After the first game, he felt some pain in the hamstring,” he said. “Because we flew the following day of the game against France (to England), when we arrived because he’s from here it was easier for us to get an X-ray.
“He had a grade one-two on the hamstring and because of the schedule with Crystal Palace it was not necessary to get any risk. He was sad, me as well, because for me he should have played this game. For him it was a dream to play England. He started with England, came with Ivory Coast, playing in Wembley, in London. This is football. “
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