Hollie Pearne-Webb admits that the sea of red support helped ease of the pain of England’s early World Cup exit in the summer.
England were beaten at the quarter-final stages by eventual world champions Holland as Danny Kerry’s side departed earlier than expected.
But with Kerry having left his role as women’s coach for the men’s job and England players now turning their attentions to a Great Britain shirt, Pearne-Webb says that the side is still in a better place than at this stage four years ago as they attempted to turn around their fortunes after a poor 2014 World Cup.
Pearne-Webb will captain GB for the Champions Trophy, which starts this weekend in China, a tournament which will also mark their first major event since the 28-year-old scored the winning shoot-out shot in Rio.
“It’s a massive honour and privilege [to be captain],” she said. “Over the last few years, myself and Laura [Unsworth] have supported Alex as vice captains and it’s really unfortunate that she can’t be around. But it’s an honour to take the role for the trip.
“Even though we played a few tournaments as GB out in Argentina last year, this is our first tournament together and we’re really excited to put on a GB shirt on again.”
There will be several debut GB caps on show, while the additions of Sarah Jones of Wales, alongside Amy Costello and Sarah Robertson as Scotland’s representatives have helped to add fresh firepower.
Pearne-Webb said: “The Scots and the Welsh we have on the programme are really great characters and great players for us. It’s a great opportunity for them and for us to build over the next few years.”
England’s World Cup defeat to the Dutch proved a “massive disappointment” for the Surbiton defender and the team following the surge of exposure the tournament received, along with the huge crowds at the Olympic Park.
“It was initially really hard,” she added. “We went straight home after our last defeat. We had a day and then we were back on the park and there for the semi-final and final. It helped us to be engaged with the fans and to see the amount there who were still cheering for us, even though we had exited the tournament.
“To see the impact that hockey had in this country over the last few years made me feel that it was bigger than what we’ve done over the past two years.
“I don’t think it was pressure, we were well prepared. We didn’t play badly, which is the most frustrating part. We played pretty well, we hardly conceded any short corners or penetrations and it was that final 25 and putting the ball in the back of the net.
“It was one of those things. Looking back four years ago, we were in a bad place. We are in a far better place to then and playing better hockey.”
After GB’s heroic success at the Rio Games, the aim now – with a head coach yet to be appointed – is to retain their Olympic title in Tokyo in two years time.
“We want to try and win back-to-back golds, that’s our aim,” she said. “But our main goal is to qualify for the Olympics and we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.”