Harry Maguire returns to England training as Man Utd star bids to force Gareth Southgate decision

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Harry Maguire returned to England training on Thursday as he pushes to prove his fitness to start the Euro 2020 opener with Croatia on Sunday.

The Manchester United captain has been out of action for over a month, since suffering an ankle injury against Aston Villa on May 9.

Maguire was forced to miss United's Europa League final defeat to Villarreal and hasn't featured for the Three Lions in either of their warm-up matches.

Such had been the extent of his injury, that his participation in any of the group stage matches – England also face Scotland and Czech Republic – has been in serious question.

Harry Maguire returned to training with the team on Thursday
(Image: REUTERS)

That was part of the reason why Gareth Southgate elected to add Ben White to his squad when Trent Alexander-Arnold withdrew, with the England boss looking at how to rejig his defence without a man who has been a mainstay during his tenure.

John Stones is set to start at the heart of defence.

But there remains uncertainty over his partner – Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings are the other centre-back options – while there are questions over whether there could be a move from a back four to three centre-backs, with Kyle Walker reprising his 2018 role and Luke Shaw also starting on Stones' left.

But Maguire took part in Thursday morning's open session as he looks to prove his fitness before this weekend's opener.

If he shows no ill effects, it poses a major question to the England boss over whether to risk him against the 2018 World Cup finalists from the outset, or hold him in reserve for games to come.

England's Harry Maguire (right) in action with John Stones (left) and Raheem Sterling
(Image: PA)

Fans at Wembley have also been urged to applaud England players when they take the knee on Sunday to drown out any booing.

The gesture was jeered by some at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough prior to the friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week.

Its critics wrongly claim the gesture has political overtones, despite the players and Gareth Southgate having publicly, and vehemently, stated that it is simply done to reinforce the message that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated.

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Now, anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, the Football Supporters’ Association and England fans group Block 109 have called on fans to show support the team.

The statement read: “Gareth Southgate and his England players have repeatedly stated that taking the knee is a symbol of the continuing battle against racial inequality. Jeering the players is also jeering what the gesture stands for.

“Once players are in position to take the knee, Kick It Out and the FSA are asking fans to start their applause as early as possible, to show the players and the team we are all behind them, as they commence their Euro 2020 campaign on Sunday.”

Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett said: “Gareth Southgate and the England players have made their position really clear – they are taking the knee as an anti-discrimination gesture, it is in no way linked to any political organisation.

“All of us England fans, myself included, want to see England succeed in the Euros, so we are asking for fans at the games to drown out boos with applause and show the players we are behind them.

“For those fans who have booed or want to boo, we would urge you to think about how that impacts the players – the same players who we want to bring England success in this tournament.

“The real issue we all want to address is tackling discrimination in football, and that is something we can and should all get behind. So let’s support the team, support the players and unite against racism and all forms of discrimination.”

Burnett’s counterpart at the FSA, Kevin Miles, said: “Fans who turn up to support the England team and make their first act after the referee’s whistle booing their own team’s stance against racism, should be ashamed of themselves.

"We stand with those supporters who have reacted positively by applauding the players taking part in their demonstration.

“The boos are particularly disappointing given that just 20 months ago England fans took a strong stance against racism – backing their players during an onslaught of racist abuse directed at every black England player from the Bulgarian crowd in Sofia.

"We would urge everyone to show solidarity once more by supporting the team, supporting the players and supporting the knee.”

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