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Euro 2012: England Fans Ready For Ukraine Test In Donetsk

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ENGLAND
Singing for England | PA

Thousands of England football fans will cheer on their team in Donetsk tonight despite fears of violence if they knock Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine out of the tournament.

There will be an intense atmosphere inside the 50,000-seater Donbass Arena, where around 4,000 England fans will be hugely outnumbered by a passionate home crowd.

Stickers threatening violence have been posted in the city by supporters of club team Shakhtar Donetsk.

One showing a scene involving riot police and carrying the slogan "We wait for the Euros" was displayed near the scene where a British policeman on holiday was attacked before England's opening game.

The head of the British police contingent at the tournament has met his Ukrainian counterparts as efforts to ensure fans' safety were stepped up.

Some supporters revealed they would not wear their replica shirts at the match.

Tony Hixon, 48, from Southampton, said: "There's an unusual nerve about this game.

"We don't know too much about the Ukrainians, so we're just wondering what is going to happen.

"Is there going to be trouble kicking off if we knock them out? I don't know, but that is the feeling."

He is not wearing his England shirt because he is travelling alone and wants to "slip into the crowd" after the game for safety, he said.

Warren Panter, 44, from Northampton but now working in Gibraltar, will also be in neutral colours.

"You don't know what element of thugs are around the corner. They could be preparing for this game," he said.

Dan Stevens, 24, from Wimbledon, south-west London, was also concerned.

"There could be a select few who are looking to hurt the England fans," he said.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, of the Association of Chief Police Officers which is leading the 18 British officers in Ukraine, said he has prepared for the possibility of the match being an intense affair.

"We always knew that if England end up in the last game of the group stage playing Ukraine and both need something out of the game, it would be a very tense atmosphere," he said.

"This will be the most challenging operation in Ukraine thus far and we'll be working really hard with our Ukrainian colleagues to do all we can to make sure that England supporters are safe and appropriately policed."

Mr Holt raised concern about the number of Russians wearing England shirts at Euro 2012. Russian and Polish fans were involved in violent clashes with riot police before their match in Warsaw last week.

"It poses a challenge because some Russian fans throughout this tournament haven't behaved particularly well," Mr Holt said.

"What I don't want is Russian fans wearing England shirts misbehaving, and then England fans being blamed."

The last time England played in Ukraine was in a World Cup qualifier in 2009.

The match in Dnipropetrovsk was twice delayed because flares were thrown at England players.

Meanwhile the predicted return of Wayne Rooney to the team following suspension received a mixed response from fans.

John Moorehouse, 57, from Devizes, Wiltshire, said: "I'm worried about Rooney coming into the team as it might upset the balance. Sometimes you shouldn't change it when it's working."

But Rob Tuvey, 20, from Wimbledon, said the return of Rooney has left him "buzzing".

He said: "I wouldn't like to be Roy Hodgson choosing who to play up front."

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