John Gibbons: Why did England fans boo Joe Gomez? He’s the victim

Is this all about 'Scouse not English'?

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Thursday night’s England game saw one of those incidents that are so ridiculous you almost can’t believe your eyes – or, in this case, ears. I am talking of course about a footballer getting booed ON to the pitch by his own fans – seemingly for the crime of being assaulted by his team-mate earlier in the week.

I’d say you couldn’t make it up, but with England’s supporters you probably could.

Raheem Sterling has had his own issues with England supporters in the past, getting booed at Euro 2016 for example. But he’s scoring now so he’s sound, apparently, and anyone who crosses him is the enemy. And by crosses of course I mean tries to shake his hand in the canteen. The one positive for Sterling this week is he probably never realised he had so many people willing to go to bat for him at the moment when, rather ironically, he probably least deserved it.

So how did we get to the point where a footballer can get booed in this situation? Well the long running frosty relationship between Liverpool as a city and the rest of England is probably a factor. England supporters seemed to have responded to the Liverpool position of “English not Scouse” by singing songs about the city in the terraces and even booing Virgil Van Djik when he played against England for Holland recently. It is remarkably petty considering Joe Gomez is actually from London and is clearly very proud to represent his country. But that’s football fans for you.

I have also seen blame given to Gareth Southgate, for “making a big deal out of it” and “creating a situation”. I would invite these people to attack a colleague at their own work and see how they get on with it. They’ll realise that Raheem Sterling actually got away very lightly indeed compared to how most of us would be treated, and this was in no small part because of the reaction of Joe Gomez and his Liverpool team mates. Southgate is one of the few people to come out of this week with any credit. Not least because he was one of the few to actually condemn the England fans after the game.

To be fair one of the others was Raheem Sterling, who went on Twitter to criticise the reaction and reinforce that he took responsibility for what had happened on Monday and that Gomez had done “nothing wrong”. The rest of them were largely silent. Harry Kane, who is England captain but is too cowardly to actually lead, tweeted that it had been a “perfect night”. Perfect! On the official @England twitter handle there is no mention of the incident at all. Instead RTing old footballers saying what a wonderful night it had been. Wonderful for everyone except the young lad who got booed like, but forget about him.

Which I wouldn’t mind as much but when supporters abroad act badly they are all lining up to condemn them. Obviously what happened in Bulgaria was disgraceful and much more serious, but don’t we just love to act all high and mighty when it is nasty foreigners picking on our lads, considering we’re very happy to turn a blind eye when we mistreat our own when they have done absolutely nothing wrong.

This is the problem and this is why England fans, who are presumably mostly perfectly reasonable people until they put on an England shirt and enter a football stadium, will continue to flabbergast you with their implausible stupidity. Because none of their heroes are prepared to hold up a mirror to their behaviour and say “what the fuck are you doing?”. They are too scared to speak out. It’s like the bully in school. Ignore it. Don’t publicly stand up for the victim. Or you might be next. It’s just left to people like me. Who presumably will just get called a Scouse Twat.

I’m already looking forward to the vomit-inducing “Thanks so much to our amazing travelling fans” tweets from Kane and co on Sunday after they play in Kosovo. They probably won’t mean it, they are just more concerned with their own image than doing the right thing and standing up for their team mate. Don’t worry, Joe, you can come back to Liverpool after that. We’ve got your back.

Kosovo 5/1, Draw 16/5, England 4/9