West Ham forward Michail Antonio says football fans have taken it ‘too far’ in regards to Harry Maguire and that their abuse of the England defender ‘is actually quite embarrassing’.
Maguire fell down the pecking order at Manchester United and lost his captaincy at the club earlier in the summer. However, he has managed to keep his place in the England squad.
Gareth Southgate’s decision to select Maguire frustrated a lot of fans and the 30-year-old’s own goal against Scotland in their international friendly on Tuesday added fuel to the fire.
Scotland’s supporters heckled Maguire’s every touch after he was introduced for Marc Guehi at half-time and continued to hurl abuse at the Manchester United defender after the game.
Antonio felt the abuse directed at Maguire was unfair and jumped to the defence of the man who came close to signing for West Ham during the summer transfer window.
West Ham’s Michail Antonio says fans have taken it ‘too far’ in regards to Harry Maguire
Maguire came on at half-time against Scotland and scored an unfortunate own goal (above)
Gareth Southgate described Maguire as a ‘tower of strength’ for England after the match
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Speaking about the way in which the fans are treating Maguire on the Footballers’ Football Podcast, Antonio said: ‘It’s gone way too far – it’s actually embarrassing.
‘I’ve never seen this ever in football, how one person can be absolutely destroyed any time he does anything wrong, [even when] it’s not his fault and he’s just involved in it.
‘People do forget that people are human and obviously this will affect them mentally. He went from being an unbelievable centre-half, I think one of the best in the Premier League when he was at Hull and Leicester, to half a man.
‘He’s trying to stay strong, to rebuild himself. He believes in his ability. Right now it’s just not working for him. When I saw Gareth Southgate speak up, I was like ‘well done’. It should have been brought up before. It’s been a whole two years.’
Maguire came close to joining West Ham on loan during the summer transfer window, but a deal fell through after Man United decided they were no longer interested in a temporary deal.
They were open to a permanent departure but decided against a temporary deal with the Hammers. Had a deal been reached, Maguire would be playing alongside Antonio at the London stadium.
Maguire (right) showed his appreciation to the travelling England fans who backed him
Antonio’s comments came shortly Southgate defended Maguire. The England manager said: ‘He was exceptional for us at the weekend [in the 1-1 draw with Ukraine]. The reaction tonight is a consequence of idiots really from our side who have created that environment.
‘So what I think was brilliant tonight was our fans who were here recognised that they’re going to protect their own. We should be doing that. We’re creating a problem for our own player. Some of the articles that were written, some of the comments that were made, were an absolute joke.
‘He’s been a tower of strength for us through one of the most successful periods of English football and the response tonight – I understand Scottish fans, they’re having some fun – but it’s created by our own side, it’s ridiculous.’
Continuing his stout defence of Maguire in the post-match press conference, Southgate added: ‘From a Scotland fans’ point of view I get it and I’ve got absolutely no complaints with what they did.
‘It’s a consequence of ridiculous treatment of him for a long period of time, frankly. I think our fans recognised, ‘Okay, there might be a bit of heat from our own supporters but we’re not going to have it from others getting into him’. But it’s a joke.
‘I’ve never known a player treated the way he is. Not by the Scottish fans, by our own commentators, pundits, whatever it is. They’ve created something that’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen. He’s been an absolute stalwart for us in the second-most successful England team for decades. He’s been an absolutely key part of that.
‘I’ve talked about the importance of our senior players, he’s been crucial amongst that. Every time he goes on the field the resilience he shows, the balls he shows, is absolutely incredible. So he’s a top player and we’re all with him. And our fans were brilliant with him tonight.’
Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers feels the criticism of the former Manchester United captain has ‘been created by his own club supporters and that has spilled out onto other supporters’.
‘It’s sad where it was created from,’ he added. ‘I find it a real shame. He’s a good guy and obviously a top-class player. He’s tough, mentally strong and will prove throughout the rest of his career he’s a very good player.
‘I know, having worked with him, if you need someone by your side when it’s tough you’d want him beside you. You have to have a resilience about you to succeed at the top level in a game with so many opinions.
‘It’s the world we are in. You have to ignore the noise, you have to take yourself away from that. Otherwise it becomes a challenge for you.’