English football fans can be just as shameful as Hungary’s – Stuart Rayner

Before we English saddle up our high horses about the shameful behaviour of Hungary’s fans in Budapest on Thursday night, we need to remember the Wembley fans are on trial too on Sunday.

In his unofficial role as the conscience and commonsense of this country, England manager Gareth Southgate was very clear before and after what went on at the Puskas Stadium that England must get its own house in order first.

The last time we held a party there, thousands of people turned up and trashed it.

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The last time England supporters – some with tickets, more without – gathered in London for a football match, far too many were a complete national embarrassment, a too-often criminal mob fuelled on over-excitement, alcohol and drugs, but unfortunately not brainpower.

England's Declan Rice gestures towards the fans as a flare is thrown onto the pitch during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Puskas Arena, Hungary. (Picture: Attila Trenka/PA Wire)

England were charged with four offences by UEFA.

Hungary’s ground might not be the only one getting closed down if we see even a fraction of that idiocy again, and if they are not dead already, England’s hopes of hosting a major tournament any time soon are on life support.

Sporadic booing of players taking the knee has been a common feature before games across the country – including, sadly, in Yorkshire – this season. At Hull City v Derby County this month, neither team took the knee, just stood to protest against discrimination. They still got booed.

On Thursday night’s scenes, Southgate said: “They (the players) recognise the world is changing. Although some people are stuck in their way of thinking and prejudices, they are going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is modernising.

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring their side's first goal in front of the Hungarian fans (Picture: Attila Trenka/PA Wire)

“Hungary isn’t anywhere near as diverse in their population as our country is, it is still taking us a long, long time to get to where we need to get to and inevitably, if other countries don’t have that same level of diversity, it is probably not in their thinking in the same way as in our country.

“We’ll continue to do what we do, continue to try set the right example for young people in our country who will be more influenced by us than people will be elsewhere.”

Southgate had refused to criticise Hungary supporters ahead of the game as three of his own players had been targeted at home, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka receiving online racist abuse after missing penalties in the shoot-out loss to Italy.

He did call for the authorities to do more to protect players when asked if UEFA and FIFA needed to come together and make sure stadium bans were implemented across all competitions.

Hungary fans after the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Puskas Arena, Hungary. (Picture: Attila Trenka/PA Wire)

“I don’t think our players can do anything more than have done over the past two or three years and in trying to get right messages out, make the right stand,” he added.

“It’s for other people to protect them, for me to protect them in the main, the authorities to protect them as well, they shouldn’t have to be subjected to any form of racism.

“I have to say there’s a balance in the crowd, as we know at home, not everyone at home causes problems.

“Tonight our anthem was really respected remarkably well, so it is not fair to criticise all of the Hungarian fans, a lot were generous and behaved themselves extremely well.

“It’s a very similar situation to the one we find at home, I think. The individuals found responsible need to be dealt with. I think there’s evidence people were filmed and we have got to hope that the authorities deal with that in the right way.”