England considering whether to take the knee ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·3-min read

The England squad will meet on Tuesday evening to discuss whether to continue taking the knee in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

There has been growing debate around the pre-match anti-racism gesture, with Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha recently becoming the first Premier League player to stand since play resumed last June.

Scotland will stand against racism ahead of their game against Austria this week in a bid to call for action and change, while Wales have yet to decide whether they will keep taking the knee this international break.

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England have taken the knee since international football resumed last September and new call-up Ollie Watkins said the squad will be discussing it ahead of the triple-header against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

“It’s hard to say,” the uncapped striker said. “I have my opinion on it.

“We’ve actually got a team meeting on it tonight and I’ll keep my view to myself.

“But I think everyone has their own different opinions. Like Tyrone (Mings) said and delivered really well, I think it’s important that we keep doing it.

“You know, it’s a very touchy subject and I think it’s a very powerful message that people are still talking about it. It reminds people why we are doing it.”

Tyrone Mings made his England debut in Bulgaria in October 2019, when players were subjected to racist abuse
Tyrone Mings made his England debut in Bulgaria in October 2019, when players were subjected to racist abuse (Nick Potts/PA)

Mings was part of the England team that twice stopped their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last year due to racist abuse, with the Villa defender recently telling Sky Sports that taking a knee remains the right way forward.

“This is a demonstration of the injustices or inequalities that different cultures and races within football have felt and continue to feel,” he said.

“Historically, we’ve never had something like this.

“We have t-shirt campaigns and stuff like this, but to say that we’ve unified the sport in an anti-racism message, pre-game in the Premier League, every game, I think it’s so powerful.

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“This is something that we shouldn’t let go or stop without thinking ‘why’ or thinking really deeply as to why we’re stopping.

“If I’m completely honest, I haven’t heard one substantial argument as to why we should stop it.”

England midfielder Jude Bellingham was sent vile racist abuse after Borussia Dortmund’s 2-2 draw at Bundesliga rivals Cologne on Saturday

The 17-year-old posted the replies with a short message which read: “Just another day on social media…”

England tweeted their support after Jude Bellingham had revealed he had been targeted for abuse online.
England tweeted their support after Jude Bellingham had revealed he had been targeted by abuse online(screengrab – Twitter/@England)

Dortmund posted their support saying “racism belongs nowhere”, with the Football Association tweeting a similar message.

“We continue to be disgusted by the discriminatory abuse our players — and others across the game — are being subjected to online,” the @England account posted.

“Something needs to change. We stand with you, @BellinghamJude.”

Speaking ahead of the team meeting, Manchester United forward Jesse Lingard – back in the squad after a fine start to his loan spell at West Ham – said he believes taking the knee can help make a stand – but that it will be a slow process.

Jesse Lingard believes taking the knee before matches can have an impact.
Jesse Lingard believes taking the knee before matches can have an impact. (Paul Childs/PA)

“A lot more needs to be done – it’s been going on for years and years now,” he told talkSPORT.

“Obviously with the knee, I feel like it’s a process. Nothing’s going to change in an instant.

“So I feel if we carry on, hopefully the generation coming up behind us will grow up and think ‘why are they taking the knee?’ and then we can explain the reasons why, so I feel the knee is going to be a long process and we should stick by it.”