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Oct 13, 2008

Fans had right to boo, Gerrard insists

Steven Gerrard has bucked the trend of the last few days by claiming England fans had every right to boo Ashley Cole during the 5-1 drubbing of Kazakhstan on Saturday. And it was a view echoed by West Ham defender Matthew Upson.

Cole was jeered after his error gifted the visitors their consolation goal and he was targeted every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the game.

The Football Association, coach Fabio Capello and stand-in captain Rio Ferdinand had all publicly criticised the home supporters for their actions but now Liverpool midfielder Gerrard has explained that anyone paying their money has the right to make their feelings known. Having said that, he did not believe it was needed.

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 said.

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. "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.'

"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, meanwhile, believes Belarus will prove tough opposition

"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. 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.''

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