Leighton Baines has insisted England are unconcerned about 18,000 Poland fans flooding Wembley tonight as they look to secure World Cup qualification.
England are currently top of European zone Group H and victory over Poland will guarantee their place at next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
But Wembley has often proved inspirational for England’s opponents and the Football Association may inadvertently have helped this time around by giving their Polish counterparts 8,000 tickets and then an additional 10,000 to ensure a full stadium.
However, England left-back Baines said on Sunday a large contingent of away fans wouldn’t intimidate the home team. “If it adds to the atmosphere it is great,” he told reporters at England’s hotel in Watford, north of London.
“I remember when we played Ghana — and I don’t know how many there were there — they were amazing and it just made it better. If these away fans add to the atmosphere the home fans are going to produce, it just adds to the occasion.
“It may be different now that Poland haven’t got anything to play for in terms of qualification, so the fans might not be as passionate as they might have
been. “To put a more positive spin on it, you’d rather play in a stadium with a good atmosphere, rather than it be a half-empty stadium.”
With first-choice left-back Ashley Cole again ruled out with a rib injury, England manager Roy Hodgson is set to carry on with Everton defender Baines, who played in the 4-1 qualifying win over Montenegro at Wembley.
“It’s great to always be part of the squad but it’s been good preparing before the game knowing you’re playing,” Baines, long Chelsea star Cole’s England ‘understudy’, said ahead of what is set to be his 21st cap. “These two games are a great opportunity for me to try to put a bit of a stamp on it (the position),” he added.
Wembley was the setting when the Poles denied England a place at the World Cup in 1973 and it was also the backdrop for a 2-3 loss to Croatia on a rain-sodden night in 2007 that prevented England reaching Euro 2008.