Armed police and armored vehicles surround Wembley as part of 'enhanced' security operation

Sam Dean
Armed police patrolled outside the national stadium - Rex Features

Heavily-armed police patrolled the streets around Wembley Stadium as part of an “enhanced” security operation following last week’s terror attack in Westminster.

They were supported by bomb-proof trucks and hundreds of regular officers as the security forces made their presence felt in the build-up to England’s World Cup qualifying clash with Lithuania.

A wreath was laid in memory of the four victims of the attack before the start of the match, while both sets of players wore black armbands in tribute to those who were killed and injured in Wednesday’s atrocity.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said before the game that the security threat level remains “severe”, while the FA encouraged fans to arrive as early as possible due to extensive security searches inside the stadium.

Police with sniffer dogs lined Wembley Way before kick-off, with numerous heavy-duty ‘Guardian’ vehicles on display on the roads around the stadium.

One of the armored vehicles around Wembley before England's game with Lithuania Credit: Rex Features

It came as the England flag outside the Bobby Moore entrance to the stadium flew at half-mast, while a minute’s silence was held before kick-off. There were similar silences across the country at League One and League Two fixtures this weekend.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was joined on the pitch by Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, FA chairman Greg Clarke and Craig Mackey, the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to lay the wreath before the match. Mr Khan had earlier vowed to show the city “will never be cowed by terrorism”.

It was the second time in less than two years that Wembley has hosted an international match in the wake of a terrorist attack in Europe. There was a dramatically heightened police presence at the national stadium in November 2015 as England took on France just days after 130 people were killed in Paris.

The security services were less obviously visible yesterday compared to that game in 2015, which came after the Stade de France was assaulted in the Paris attacks.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan lays a wreath on the pitch as respect for the victims of the London attack  Credit: Reuters

Yesterday’s black armbands were also worn in memory of Graham Taylor, whose wife Rita and daughters Karen and Joanne were at Wembley for the country’s first home match since the former England manager’s death in January.

Writing in the match programme, FA Chairman Greg Clarke said: “Our game is poorer without the man and the manager.”

There was also a tribute from former England and Watford winger John Barnes, who said Taylor was “a brilliant football man, a great coach but also someone who built characters. A manager who, no matter how old you were, continued to help you grow as a person.”

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