Football fans have been forced to find new ways of supporting their teams of late, but one loyal England follower took that to a whole new level on Saturday.
As Gareth Southgate’s side took on Iceland in their Nations League opener in Reykjavik, Chad Thomas could be found watching the action from behind a fence on the perimeter of the stadium.
That was despite the prospect of five days quarantined alone in a hotel room on arrival, before a match to be played behind closed doors.
It was a combination of factors which deterred all his fellow Three Lions supporters, but not Thomas.
The Frickley Athletic fan, from South Elmsall in Yorkshire, made the three-hour, £70 flight to Iceland, spending £410 on an 11-night stay, to be present for the Three Lions’ largely uninspiring return to action.
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” Thomas told Sky Sports News prior to kick-off.
“A lot of England fans would have come over if it wasn’t for the quarantine. A lot of flights were booked.”
Under current rules, those arriving in Iceland must submit two tests for Covid-19 either side of five days in quarantine, isolating until the results of the second test are known. After five days which were “lonely at times”, Thomas was given the all-clear at 20-past-four on Friday afternoon.
Thomas was made to wait 90 minutes before being treated to a chaotic finale, as Raheem Sterling’s 91st-minute penalty proved decisive once the hosts squandered the chance to equalise with a 93rd-minute spot-kick of their own.
He was also among the England fans to travel to Croatia to watch a behind-closed-doors match from a hill-top in October 2018 – though on that occasion the ban on fans was due to Uefa sanctions against Croatia and the game finished goalless.
On his distanced view of the action on Saturday, Thomas said it was “almost like being in the stadium”, adding he goes the extra distance for England “for the love of football and for the love of travel”.
“There’s just nothing like it,” he added. “In Russia our dreams almost came true when we were 22 minutes away from the final. If we had won that it could not have got any better. Hopefully, one day, it will happen.”