Southgate Continues To Play Maguire Despite Becoming Own-Goal Specialist

Scotland Vs England International Friendly

The England player, other than Bellingham, who was appreciated by Scotland's supporters during the friendly between Scotland and England was Maguire but, this was in loud and ironic fashion and again flagged up a long-term nightmare for Southgate.

When Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi went off at half-time, Southgate decided not to use AC Milan's Fikayo Tomori or throw in Chelsea's Levi Colwill.

Rather, Manchester United's outcast former captain Harry Maguire was thrown into the fray, to the same deafening ironic roars from Scotland fans that greeted him from the home support when he was brought on at Arsenal recently.

Maguire's every touch was mocked in similar fashion inside Hampden Park. It was, presumably, not Southgate's intention to lift the mood of Scotland's subdued followers as they were loosing 2-0, but that was exactly the impact of the 30-year-old's introduction.

England's fans responded by loudly rallying to Maguire's cause but there was a grim predictability about what occurred in the 67th minute, the defender lazily putting out a leg to divert Robertson's cross past helpless Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale.

Hampden Park rocked to the sound of renewed hope that lasted until Kane scored nine minutes from time - leaving Maguire to pump his fists in front of England's fans in thanks for their backing.

It would take a heart of stone, or an opposition supporter, not to feel some measure of sympathy for a player whose career has come to a standstill at club level and does not seem able to catch a break when he does make a rare appearance.

Maguire currently faces many tests, most significantly having to deal with Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag who clearly does not rate him, and a reduced standing among opposition fans that makes for uncomfortable listening - for the neutrals at least - when he plays.

The problem for Southgate, and it will not go away, is that he is maintaining loyalty to a player who is not playing for his club, not getting the tests and games that will keep him sharp for what England expect will be a Euro 2024 campaign in Germany next summer.

This is the crux of this whole contentious matter.

Maguire, who turned down the chance to get his club career going by failing to agree a move to West Ham United, has made his bed at club level with that decision and time will tell if it shapes his career at international level.

For now, though, Southgate is not for turning.

Nevertheless, Southgate came out fighting against Maguire's treatment in his post-match media briefing, turning on those who have criticised him.

He said From a Scotland fan's point of view I get it. I have absolutely no complaint with what they did. It's a consequence of ridiculous treatment of him for a long period of time.

It's a joke. I've never known a player treated the way he is. Not by the Scottish fans but by our own commentators, pundits or whatever it is. They've created something that's beyond anything I've ever seen, Southgate said.

Southgate's loyalty to Maguire is admirable in some respects, as is his stout defence of a player who has served him so well, but it may be unsustainable.

England's win delivered another factor into Southgate's future selection calculation in the composed performance of Brighton's Lewis Dunk, who was comfortable on the ball, powerful in the air and made several key interceptions on the very few occasions Scotland threatened.

This was a chance for the 31-year-old to state his England case and he did it very well to increase competition in Southgate's defensive areas.

If Maguire is a man who now faces a constant fight to prolong his England career, Hampden Park bore witness to a player with a golden future in front of him in Jude Bellingham.

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