England may have handled the eerie occasion well, but Ian Wright says he would have ‘hated’ playing in the empty Stadion HNK Rijeka on Friday evening.
The Three Lions outperformed their World Cup conquerors in their own backyard, but spurned several opportunities to seal what would have been a significant victory for their Nations League chances.
Manager Gareth Southgate claimed he barely considered the silent surroundings once the match had kicked off, but Wright says it would have seriously affected his game.
Ian Wright was not happy with the lack of atmosphere during England’s game in Croatia
General view during the game showing the empty HNK Rijeka Stadium during the match
Speaking to ITV, Wright said: ‘Without the fans, no matter what players are on show, it’s rubbish. That was a terrible atmosphere to play in.
‘The only thing I can equate it to is a reserve game, when you’re coming back from injury, a reserve game. I would hate to play in that situation without fans there.’
There was a similar opinion emanating from his former Arsenal team-mate Lee Dixon, who jokingly compared the atmosphere to his time at Chester. Once again, Dixon says the players may have been disturbed by hearing things they usually wouldn’t.
Dixon said: ‘It was like playing for Chester, when I was playing for Chester. No, that’s only a joke. When you’re playing in a reserve game and coming back from injuries, you almost have to play in your head a little bit.
Croatia fans watch from the balcony on a near-by block of flats on Friday evening
Spectators look into the stadium from a nearby vantage point after England fans travelled
The Nations League match resembles a quiet training session under the floodlights
‘You’re not cutting out the crowd, you’re cutting out the lack of it. So many things come into your ears that you didn’t hear before.
‘It’s different, but once the game starts – Gareth sums it up, he didn’t think about anything, he was just concentrating on the game.’
After the game, a number of England players spoke of the strange atmosphere in the empty stadium.
‘It was strange, the first experience of it for all of us, we saw couple of fans got up on the hill but once the game started it was in the back of our minds,’ said Eric Dier ‘We could easily hear the ones on the hill, they were the only ones here.’
Kane said: ‘It was a strange one, we’re not using to playing with no fans, it’s hard without the atmosphere.’
Lee Dixon compared the atmosphere in the empty stadium to the one at former club Chester