Gareth Southgate claims England fans are creating ‘unusual environment’

Gareth Southgate talked about being in “an unusual environment” after having plastic beer cups thrown at him by England fans and hearing his team booed off after their 0-0 draw with Slovenia on Tuesday night.

Although a point was enough for England to go through to last 16 as winners of Group C, the reaction in the stands at the Cologne Stadium was hardly complimentary after another ineffective attacking ­display against opponents ranked 57th in the world.

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Much of the anger was aimed at Southgate when he went to acknowledge supporters after the final whistle. The 53-year-old was met with prolonged boos and he admitted he was aware of three beer cups being hurled in his direction, landing just short of him.

“I understand it,” Southgate said. “I’m not going to back away from it. The most important thing is we stay with the team. I understand the narrative towards me. That’s better for the team than it being towards them but it is creating an unusual ­environment to operate in. I’ve not seen any other team qualify and receive similar.”

Southgate, who was applauded by some supporters, also described the environment as “strange” and “difficult”. Asked to elaborate on why the mood was different from previous tournaments, he pointed to England having to deal with greater expectation. “We’ve made England fun again and it’s been very, very enjoyable for the players,” he said. “We’ve got to be careful it stays that way.”

England will play in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday evening and, depending on results in Wednesday’s games in Group F, could meet the Netherlands. The other possible opponents are the third-placed team in Group E: Romania, Belgium, Slovakia or Ukraine. Southgate must inspire an improvement and insisted he had enough energy to lift his players before the knockout stage begins.

“I’m in a really good place,” he said. “I ­recognise when you have moments like at the end of the game, I’m asking the players to be fearless, I’m not going to back down from going to thank our fans.

“However they feel towards me, I get it, I’ve been around England for 20 years, I’ve seen it. My job is to guide the team through this and get the very best out of the team and keep this perspective for them. I’m very happy with how they’ve handled the last few days.”

England struggled to create chances against Slovenia, who joined Denmark in progressing from the group after finishing third. Conor Gallagher was replaced by Kobbie Mainoo at half-time and Cole Palmer impressed after replacing Bukayo Saka midway through the second half.

“England have Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, Kobbie Mainoo, Phil Foden,” the former England right-back Gary Neville said on ITV. “Massive, massive talents and we cannot afford to mismanage them.”

Southgate, who had spoken about a “reset” since the draw with Denmark last week, denied that he had no Plan B. “I think the changes we made had a positive effect on the game tonight,” he said.

“Slovenia defended well. We weren’t able to find the right pass. We’re improving. I didn’t think that with how everything that happened after the last game that would suddenly be free and liberated and stick four or five goals in. Football doesn’t work that way. But I saw progress. The goals will come.”

Harry Kane, who was laboured up front, stayed positive after England avoided a last-16 tie with Germany. France, Spain and Portugal are also on the other side of the draw.

“The aim was to top of the group to control our destiny,” the captain said. “It was a tough game. We played a lot better than the other two games. We have more than enough ability to keep pushing.”