‘An amazing night’, ‘still in shock’, ‘the stuff of dreams’.
There were no supporters at Wembley on Thursday but there was a rare sense of euphoria, as England’s most inexperienced side in 40 years revelled in beating Wales.
On a night of firsts, debutant Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Conor Coady and Danny Ings all netted their first international goals – the first time three England players have done so in the same game since 1963.
“It’s just an incredible night,” said Wolves defender Coady.
“I’m still in shock to be honest, it’ll live with me forever. It will be on repeat in my house now – it’s an amazing night for me.”
Coady is not a man renowned for his prowess in front of goal. Nor is he known for his shooting, with Thursday representing the first time since March 2017 that he has two efforts at goal with his feet in one match.
In 240 games for his club side, he has netted just twice, the last coming at Bolton in April 2018. For his country, though, he is scoring a goal every two games.
His goal was a poked finish from Kieran Trippier’s free-kick, doubling his country’s lead.
“It went like I had never dreamed of in my wildest dreams to score for England at Wembley,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “The feeling is absolutely amazing and my phone is going off.
“When it fell to my foot, I felt if I got contact it would go in and you saw on my face the feeling and emotions I was going through.
“The set-piece coach asked me if I had scored for Wolves and I said not in a long time. He said we will try to change that.
“I cannot speak highly enough of what the lads have done for me – it’s absolutely incredible and absolutely brilliant to have players like this representing our country.”
To top his night off, he ended the game wearing the captain’s armband, having been handed it after Trippier was substituted with just over 30 minutes left.
‘Buzzing is an understatement’
Calvert-Lewin has been the in-form striker in the early weeks of the season, scoring nine times in just six games for Everton, including two-hat-tricks.
It took him 26 minutes to get off the mark for his country, rising to head home a cross from Jack Grealish, who excelled throughout his own first start for his country.
“It’s a shame there are no fans here to celebrate and my family aren’t here – it’s bittersweet in that sense but to score on my debut is the stuff of dreams,” he told ITV Sport.
“I’ve worked very hard to get here. It’s felt like a long road but I’m very pleased to be here and to get the opportunity to score on my debut.”
Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he added: “I felt comfortable, I am high on confidence at the moment, scoring goals and enjoying my football. The only emotion I had was excitement and could not wait to get on to the pitch. Buzzing is an understatement.”
A night of firsts for a new-look England
England’s night of firsts included debuts for four players – Calvert-Lewin, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, Leicester’s Harvey Barnes and Chelsea’s Reece James.
It is the first time since April/May 1933 that England have given four or more debuts to players in consecutive internationals after Coady, Aston Villa’s Grealish, Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips and Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles all made their first appearances against Denmark in September.
Such was the side’s inexperience, their 54 total caps represented the fewest for an international since May 1980, when the XI for a game against Australia had just 46 caps between them.
The starting XI also featured players from 10 different clubs (Burnley, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool, Wolves, two from Everton, Spurs, Leeds, Southampton and Aston Villa), the most for a match since May 1997 against South Africa.
In addition, Calvert-Lewin became the 188th player to score on his England debut and the first Everton player to do so since Fred Pickering in 1964.
And Trippier captained England for the first time, becoming the first outfield player since David Beckham in June 2008 against Trinidad and Tobago to captain England while playing for a non-English club (Atletico Madrid).
‘Maybe we’ve changed Coady’s career path’
England boss Gareth Southgate was delighted with his side’s showing, after two underwhelming performances in the Nations League games in Iceland and Denmark in September.
“It’s so difficult for a new team to come together without much experience,” he told ITV.
“It was not fluid at the start but we got more and more into the game, the players saw the tactical problems Wales posed to us when they were pressing and I thought we finished strongly.”
He was also pleased to see the trio score their first international goals and the display of Grealish.
“All three goalscorers were lovely moments but it is just a shame there was nobody here for them,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Danny Ings took his goal really well, a great bit of improvisation and Wayne Hennessey made a fantastic save off his curling shot.
“Conor Coady does not go up for set plays for his club, they keep him back, so maybe we have changed his career path for the next few months.
“We know exactly the type of player Jack Grealish is and he showed all of the strengths that he has tonight.
“It is not a case of what we need to see, we know what we will see. I think the areas he was in for the goal he created is where we want him as much as possible. He will be very pleased with a strong debut.”