A former England international defender says that playing games behind closed doors could affect the final outcome in the Premier League.
The 2019/20 campaign resumed on Wednesday evening as Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Sheffield United to remain in the relegation zone.
Both sides worked hard to reach their usual levels, but the absence of supporters meant that the game lacked the intensity we have become accustomed to.
The result left Villa 19th in the standings, one point adrift of the three teams directly above them with nine games to play.
Playing in an empty stadium was undoubtedly a surreal experience for a group of Villa players who are used to being roared on by the club’s passionate fans.
As highlighted by recent research by Betway, Villa’s average attendance in the Championship last season was more than 36,000 and it has increased in the top flight.
Alvin Martin understands the pressure of battling against the drop, having twice been relegated with West Ham United during his playing career.
The 61-year-old, who now works as a pundit for talkSPORT, believes that playing fixtures without fans could prove detrimental to a team’s hopes of survival.
“Those big atmospheres help give you an extra five or 10 percent that you can’t replicate in training,” he said.
“They make you nervous, which I think is a very healthy thing for a sportsperson. When you’re nervous, that’s when you perform your best.
“If you go in for a tackle and there’s a crowd roaring for you and willing you to win it, I think inevitably it puts a little bit more onto you.
“Similarly, when the crowd produce that enormous roar when a goal goes in, it gives you a lift.”
With five of their remaining nine matches at home, Villa will believe they can retain their Premier League status this term.
However, as demonstrated by a slightly under-par performance against the Blades, the players clearly missed the backing from the fans.
With his former club also firmly entrenched in the battle to avoid the drop, Martin is worried that the best-supported teams could be at a disadvantage.
“If you think about it, the game would not have been around for hundreds of years if people didn’t love to go to matches,” he says.
“The community that is created and the people that are so passionately attached to their clubs wouldn’t exist. That is the power that a crowd can have.”