Gareth Southgate says England were ‘very close’ to walking off after racist chants in 6-0 win against Bulgaria

Gareth Southgate revealed just how close England were to walking off against Bulgaria when players were subjected to racist abuse from home fans.

Monday night’s Euro 2020 qualifier was stopped twice in the first half after racist chanting and Nazi salutes from a section of the crowd at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, which Southgate alerted to match officials.

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Southgate’s side are on the brink of Euro 2020 qualification, but their latest victory was marred by shocking scenes
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Fans inside the stadium were warned on the tannoy system that the match could be abandoned if they did not halt their behaviour but, despite further chants being heard in the second half, it did continue to its conclusion.

The Three Lions let their football do the talking as they cruised to a 6-0 win, and Southgate told talkSPORT afterwards how he let his players dictate how they handled the situation.

“It was extremely difficult for the players,” he said. “We prepared as well as we could for it. Sadly, we knew it this might happen.

“There were two things the players had to deal with going into the game. The possibility of what happened off the pitch may happen and the fact we were off the back of a hugely disappointing result and we had to put a performance on the field that got us back on track.

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England put on a show despite being subjected to shocking abuse
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“For all of the players and staff, this last week has been an incredibly difficult challenge but I’m hugely proud of the way they dealt with everything before, during and after the game.”

Asked how close they were to walking off, he responded: “Very close and I know that for some people what we’ve done won’t be enough but we were in an impossible situation where we couldn’t keep everybody else happy.

“We had to do what we felt was right for these group of players. The players wanted to stay on the pitch and they wanted to get to half-time. We were in contact with the referee throughout that period and I have to say he dealt brilliantly with an incredibly difficult situation.

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Southgate spoke to the officials about the racist chanting
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“At half-time tactics went out the window and we discussed what we would do in the instance of something else happening. The reality is that if we were going to come off the pitch then it is unlikely we were going to go back onto it and we checked everybody was happy with that process.”

On the pitch, England were dominant throughout the match and were 4-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Marcus Rashford, Ross Barkley (two) and Raheem Sterling.

In the second half, Sterling added a second and the scoring was completed by Harry Kane five minutes from time.

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