The boos from England fans added to the noise around Gareth Southgate

The Three Lions were booed off the field after a 0-0 draw with the United States on Friday night

It's safe to say, at least at first, that Gareth Southgate was in denial. That could easily be applied to his comments that John Stones and Harry Maguire are "absolutely amazing on the ball", or that it's not a game for Phil Foden at center "because he doesn't play there for his club".

However, it's really about the payoff of it all. A number of very noisy England fans at Al Bayt again booed Southgate. It was loudest of course at the final whistle. Given Southgate's response, Simpsons memes from Waylon Smithers to Mr Burns have never been more appropriate. “However, are we being booed? I'm not sure if it was directed at us. I don't know."

When pressed, and told there was no real reason for another taunt, Southgate went from denial to an element of defiance.

"Look, of course I want our fans to go home happy and our fans at home to have smiles on their faces, so we haven't managed to achieve that today.

"But people will react how they react and I can't let that affect how I feel about the team. The goal is for quality. We have three games to do it and I imagine most teams in the competition will need three games to do it. We have to stay calm in moments like these.”

Southgate is certainly right in that regard. While this performance did draw criticism, and raises more concern, it is only four days since England scored a fine six goals against Iran. He's also right that most campaigns have breaks.

What's more interesting here, however, is how much calm most England fans are willing to play. They were ready to really go after him, and in a rage. It's something that always rumbles in there with Southgate, ready to go out at rock bottom - like, say, a 0-0 draw to a decent team just days after you've won 6-2.

The England manager is actually a very divisive figure for a national hero.

Some of them are undeniable because of their attitude towards social issues. Given how far-right and reactionary the core of British support is, there are plenty of people waiting to leave. It is articulated in a mockery to take the knee. It was read by Southgate in many letters.

"I may have alienated certain fans," he told the New York Times ahead of the World Cup. "I'm comfortable with that."

We also have to be comfortable in dealing with the ridicule that comes from that sector. They really shouldn't be trusted. The more inconvenient fact, however, is that they don't represent all disagreements. You just need to talk to fans around the game or check social media.

It is ironic, and something somewhat surprising, that some of Southgate's most ardent critics are those who support his stance; who would consider themselves awakened. It all stems from the idea that he is a reactionary and conservative coach when it comes to football. Or, even worse, out of favor.

This is why the "you don't know what you're doing" chants at Molineux in June came from more people than just angry red-faced men.

Many sincerely believe in it. There is a widespread view that Southgate simply does not know how to get the best from this talented group, that any progress has been made in spite of him; that he "wasted" them.

It was a strange reversal of the England manager's traditional relationship with fans and media. Southgate is the rare manager who perhaps has a softer response from the press than the fans. Most of the anger doesn't just come from football but also the explanation of football, and the views of managers.

You get an immediate feel for which comments after the US game will infuriate certain fans. There's that at Stones and Maguire, and the level of the opponent.

“I think we controlled the game really well, our two centre-backs were absolutely outstanding on the ball. To play with that kind of composure against the kind of pressure and angles the US team is pressing is incredibly difficult and only when you have two players like us do you appreciate the tension a game can take.

There's that at Foden.

"We wanted to turn wide areas, we didn't think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he's not playing there for his club and defensively it's a very tricky game for three midfield finishes."

Many will be all too willing to point out that Foden has more recent experience there than some of his options for this game, such as Marcus Rashford on the right or - as perhaps sharper perhaps - Maguire at centre-back.

But that's another area where Southgate is right. Calm is also needed here.

First of all there is the fact that, for all the talk about what Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola might do with England, elite coaches in their prime are rarely interested in the international game anymore. Luis Enrique and Hansi Flick were only involved due to career circumstances.

That means Southgate is more adept than most. And even if his tactical instincts are usually towards conservative or stiff or defensive, he's actually good at several other elements of an equally important role. Southgate is clearly outstanding in people management. The cast loves him from that perspective. He is also good at working on group emotions and setting the right tone. This shouldn't be so easy to ignore. That, in part, propelled Didier Deschamps to the World Cup. Many tactically gifted coaches don't have the same communication skills to get their message across.

Second, there is the basic fact that, despite the evolution of talent, Southgate has become a history-making manager for England. He has given their best and most consistent tournament appearance outside of 1966.

That's with a squad that may not be covered in as many areas as the so-called golden generation, even if the overall talent level is greater.

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