Dier, Modric and the behind-closed-doors experience
Several of our players have been here before...
Wed 17 June 2020, 10:55|Tottenham Hotspur
'Strange' is how Eric Dier described his previous experience of playing competitive football behind closed doors, yet he also feels that a player can learn a great deal from the unique situation.
With the Premier League campaign resuming this week and the competition set to be played in front of empty stands for the first time in its history, Eric spoke candidly of his previous behind-closed-doors encounter - a UEFA Nations League clash against Croatia back in October, 2018, while on international duty with England - to give us an understanding of the various nuances that transpire for a player when there is no crowd.
Almost two years ago, in Rijeka, Croatia, our number 15 featured alongside Harry Kane for the Three Lions while Harry Winks was an unused substitute for the game against the Balkan nation. Due to UEFA disciplinary measures, the match was played out in an empty stadium… a rather novel experience for the trio.
Until the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year, such restrictions on crowds have been a rarity in the modern game, although a handful of other members of our squad have also actually had experience of behind-closed-doors action, including Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld during their Ajax days and Heung-Min Son on his international duties with South Korea.
Who has played behind closed doors before?
Eric Dier, Harry Kane and Harry Winks
Croatia v England, UEFA Nations League – 13 October, 2018
Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen
Dinamo Zagreb v Ajax, UEFA Europa League – 5 November, 2009
Ajax v AZ Alkmaar, KNVB Cup - 19 January, 2012 (partially closed)
Senegal v South Korea, international friendly - 11 June, 2018
North Korea v South Korea, FIFA World Cup Qualifier – 15 October, 2019
Lebanon v South Korea, FIFA World Cup Qualifier – 14 November, 2019
Reflecting on that 2018 encounter for his country as part of a special feature in our digital matchday programme for Friday's visit of Manchester United, Eric admitted that a 'special' part of the game was affected with no supporters in attendance, but he also felt the change in noise levels actually improved his awareness of his opponents - especially the character of former Spur and Croatia captain, Luka Modric.
“I found it quite interesting because, in my experience, while we were playing against Croatia - and obviously they were speaking Croatian - you could still tell a lot more about the players you were playing against," he explained.
“You get to understand different parts of their character because you can hear everything. Normally in that game environment, at times, you struggle to even hear your own team-mates, but then, you could hear everything being said.
“Take someone like Luka Modric - I didn’t take him to be the character he was when I was just watching, he was very vocal, very demanding of his team-mates. I’d played against him quite a few times and I never really had that feeling from him. However, playing in an empty stadium, I got that side of him. That really stood out to me. You can hear each other a lot better, which at times is helpful, but the sound of the ball and the sound of everyone moving around is quite strange.
“Obviously you want to play in full stadia, you want to feel and be part of the emotion of the crowd, that’s what makes playing for us so special. But there is always that intensity, drive and willingness to win. That’s always there, with or without fans. That will always exist."
Dier, Kane, Winks, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Son - the behind-closed-doors experience
Don't miss Friday's official matchday programme - available as a digital version to enjoy from home - for our special feature on Eric and his Spurs team-mates who know what it's like to play behind closed doors.
Our digital programme will contain everything included in the printed version with the added excitement of select pages being brought to life by video clips and interactive content. You'll also save money on the cover price, compared to the printed edition.
Simply sign up and select the programme you wish to buy. Once your purchase is complete, you will receive an email receipt containing a link via which you will be able to access your programme on each matchday.
Although we can no longer guarantee delivery in time for the match, printed copies of Friday's programme are also available to purchase for the collectors among you.