Europe (UEFA)

England fans chant "F*** the Pope" in Milan ahead of Italy showdown

mirror.co.uk, 23 September 2022, 07:28
England supporters are in the Italian city of Milan ahead of the Three Lions' crucial UEFA Nations League encounter with the Azzurri at San Siro on Friday night

England fans repeatedly chanted "F*** the Pope" and were involved in minor skirmishes in the Italian city of Milan on Thursday night.

Italian Police took a softly softly approach towards the Three Lions supporters and there was barely an officer in sight in the popular Navigli canal district. There were no major incidents involving the fans but they constantly sang "F*** the Pope and the IRA" throughout the evening.

They also chanted "Ten German Bombers" and "We hate Celtic" - believed to refer to the behaviour of fans of the Glasgow club following the death of the Queen.

Missiles were thrown at a four man crew rowing on the canal and dozens of fans could be seen urinating into the water.

A couple of bars shut their doors after the incidents and the England fans headed off to other areas of the city with no further trouble.

If you've seen anything you think is a story from Milan, please send to sportonline@trinitymirror.com

On the pitch, Harry Maguire is set to start for the Three Lions, although Gareth Southgate admits his lack of game time is "not an ideal situation".

But the Manchester United captain retains the England manager's backing and belief, despite currently finding himself out of favour at Old Trafford.

Erik ten Hag dropped him to the bench after losing the first two matches of the season and Maguire's only start since then came in the Europa League loss to Real Sociedad and last Thursday he made an 89th-minute appearance against Sheriff Tiraspol in the competition.

Southgate included Maguire in his England squad despite his lack of action. It is one of several similar issues he is dealing with, which he likened to a situation England rugby coach Eddie Jones managed, after Saracens were relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season following salary-cap breaches, meaning a number of key international players had to ply their trade in the second tier.

"I've just been reading Eddie Jones' book and he had a similar situation with the Saracens players," Southgate said. "Even on reflection, he felt they were his best players and although they were undercooked, they were still going to be better than players that weren't at the level.

"So I don't think there are many players that aren't here now that are at the level yet to go in and play.

"Look, clearly, it's not an ideal situation. You want your best players playing regularly so that they're physically in a good place and mentally in a good place.

"But he is an important player for us. I think it's important to back our best players. The squad we've picked, there are a fair number of players you could argue we could have left out at this point but I think we wanted to keep that group together and to keep them involved, keep them feeling part of it.

"But also they know that, for some of them, that they need to be playing more regularly because now we're only a few weeks on from pre-season so physically if they've had a few 90 minutes then that's fine.

"Another seven, eight weeks, then that does start to become more complicated."

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