England v San Marino: Squad to continue talks about taking the knee, says Gareth Southgate

By Alex HowellBBC Sport
'We need to address much deeper issues about racism' - Southgate
World Cup 2022 qualifying: England v San Marino
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Date: Thursday, 25 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app

Gareth Southgate says that the England squad will continue to have talks about whether to take the knee before games.

A number of clubs and players have stopped taking the knee, saying it has not been having the required impact.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha was the first Premier League player to stand since the anti-racism gesture was introduced last summer.

"We'll be unified on whatever we do and if there's any doubt then I think we would take the knee," the manager said.

Southgate said he has asked members from the leadership team, made up of senior players in the squad, to discuss it with the wider group before Thursday's opening World Cup qualifier against San Marino. England will also face Albania and Poland in the next seven days.

"I spoke with the leadership team about this last night and asked them to talk to the rest because I think it's a good process for them to hear each other's views," the 50-year-old added. "That's part of how we educate ourselves in all of these different matters and these different issues.

"I'm hugely respectful of everybody's individual opinions on that and I still think there is an impact to be had on it. When I listened to Zaha's comments, for example, I thought he spoke really well, and I totally understood why he felt that [taking the knee] wasn't enough now and that it seems to be just part of the background."

On Tuesday, Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins said it was a "touchy subject", but added that his team-mate and fellow England squad member Tyrone Mings said they should continue with the gesture. Mings was part of the England team that twice stopped their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria in 2019 because of racist abuse.

"The debate around whether we should take the knee or not or whether we should walk off a pitch or not... they're actually slightly peripheral things," added Southgate.

"The core problems are racism and discrimination, and there are deeper discussions that need to happen.

"We've got to address the much deeper issues as much as we've got to make a symbolic gesture."

Wales players took the knee before the start of Wednesday's qualifier against Belgium while Scotland plan to stand in solidarity against racism before kick-off of their game at home to Austria on Thursday.

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