Gerrard says fans had right to boo Cole

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The Independent Online

Steven Gerrard insists England fans did have the right to boo Ashley Cole following his mistake against Kazakhstan on Saturday.

The Chelsea defender's poor pass allowed the visitors to score at Wembley, and he was then loudly jeered by supporters whenever he touched the ball.

When asked at a press conference this afternoon if fans were entitled to boo players, Gerrard said: "Of course.

"Any supporter, when you pay money, you deserve to voice your opinion. But we need their support. If we're going to be successful in the future, we need them with us.

"It's not going to help Ashley and it's not going to help the team but the support we got was fantastic. They stayed with us throughout the game.

"He (Cole) is disappointed and the players are disappointed," Gerrard told a press conference broadcast by Sky Sports News.

Cole will not have an immediate chance to make amends for his error against Belarus on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.

But Gerrard is confident the left-back's confidence will not be adversely affected by the fans' reaction.

"You've got to get on with it," Gerrard continued. "You've got to take it as a man. Ashley's a big character and the players are here to support him."

England defender Matthew Upson believes the booing of Cole drew the team together.

"It can be positive, it makes us pull together," he said in a televised news conference.

"We all encouraged Ash, it's unfortunate that it happened and everyone is going to make a mistake for England at some stage, you move on, put it behind you and look forward to the next opportunity.

"It's one of those things and the team will be strong with it."

The West Ham man defended the right of the fans to do as they wish and said: "It's their right. No-one is asking them to come and clap for 90 minutes, we just ask for a bit of leniency when it happens.

"It's important for us to look after each other. They have their right to have a say and think what they want.

"It can affect a player's confidence if they don't react in the right way. Ash knows that, he will cope with it mentally and look forward to the next performance he can make."

Upson accepted the booing was a by-product of the heightened level of expectation around the side following last month's stunning 4-1 success away to Croatia.

"It's natural for the fans to expect a lot from their team, we are one of the strongest groups of players in the world, the stadium we play in is fantastic so there is going to be pressure and expectation.

"We would ask people not to get too carried away, but we are on the right track, we just need to keep plugging away."

Gerrard believes Belarus will prove tough opposition when the sides clash in Minsk on Wednesday.

"They've had some big results, I remember them beating Holland recently," he said. "They were very unfortunate to lose in Ukraine, and that's a tough place to go.

"We realise it'll be tough over there but confidence is high and we're ready."

Victory would maintain England's 100% start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, but Gerrard insisted: "We're not getting carried away, there are still a lot of hurdles to get over.

"We've had a fantastic start. It's a difficult test but we're confident we can make it four out of four and go into the new year top of the group."

As well as Cole, captain John Terry will also be absent after failing to recover from a back injury.

"They're two big players, and we're stronger with them in the team, but we are a squad and we've got good replacements, and I'm sure whoever comes in will do a good job," Gerrard added.

The Liverpool captain also welcomed the Football Association's insistence a forthcoming friendly with Spain not be played at the Bernabeu, where England players were racially abused during a match in 2004.

"Hopefully the game does go ahead but it's the right idea to have it in a different venue," Gerrard said.

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