England manager Gareth Southgate gave Manchester United captain Harry Maguire his support after calling the defender to ascertain the facts surrounding his ongoing court case in Greece.
The coronavirus pandemic means it has been nearly 10 months since the Three Lions boss last named a squad, yet there were tough decisions to make right up until the selection for September’s Nations League doubleheader.
Maguire’s role was the main talking point in the build-up, given he is subject of a court case in Greece following his arrest in Mykonos due to an alleged incident in the early hours of Friday.
A hearing was ongoing in Greece as Southgate named his squad on Tuesday afternoon, when he called upon the 27-year-old despite the difficult situation rumbling on in the background.
“It’s clearly a decision that is not straightforward and a decision that in the end I could only take on the information that I have,” the England boss said.
“I have spoken with Harry. I have the insight to the story, which is very different to what’s being reported.
“And in these instances, I think you can only make decisions on facts that you’re aware of.
“Now clearly if facts change further down the line or information changes, then I have to review that decision.
“But I have a fantastic relationship with the boy. Harry has been an outstanding character for us.
Gareth Southgate has admitted that preparing for the #ThreeLions' upcoming matches has been "complicated" â but he's still looking forward to our first games since last November: pic.twitter.com/O5dTJGjpyF— England (@England) August 25, 2020
“I have no reason to doubt what he’s telling me and, you know, it’s important that he knows that he’s got my support at this moment.”
Maguire dominated the press conference that followed the unveiling of Southgate’s 24-man squad for the Nations League fixtures in Iceland and Denmark.
Asked if Maguire could be dropped from the squad if found guilty, Southgate said: “Well, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of what might or might not happen but, as I said, I’ve got to reserve the right to review if further information becomes available.
“I think whenever you’re in a management position, you have to make lots of decisions and you always make decisions to the best of your ability given the information that you have.
“People might agree or disagree with those decisions but, you know, I think that’s the position every manager finds themselves in and at this moment in time that’s where I am with it.
I have spoken with Harry. I have the insight to the story, which is very different to what's being reportedGareth Southgate
“As I said, Harry regrets the fact that he’s brought that sort of focus and attention on the team and he apologised for that.
“But he also has his own side of the story that I think will come out in time.”
Southgate would not offer insight into what Maguire said given the ongoing legal situation but was more forthcoming about his personality, saying he has been “absolutely outstanding” for England and a “delight to work with”.
The England boss said “this is clearly a situation that none of us are enjoying”, highlighting the difficulty for the centre-back and his family at a time when so much is under scrutiny.
“Well, I think we recognise that if you’re a player with England, that has a profile, and there are expectations and there was also attention and focus that goes with that,” Southgate added.
“Clearly if you’re the captain of the club like Manchester United, that’s the same, so he’s fully aware of that.
“And, you know, I think it’s the same for all of our players, really. We know that there’s a responsibility in wider society.
“We have a fantastic connection with our fans. He’s been a big part of that over the last couple of years.
“We play Iceland this week. The four years since we last played Iceland – or however long it is – that relationship with our supporters, that engagement with our supporters has improved enormously and we want to keep that.
“We want to keep improving that and we want to keep delivering on the field. So, we can’t wait to get back wearing the shirt, representing our country and looking forward to these matches.”