England fans hail Russian welcome despite feeling outnumbered in Volgograd
Travelling support is expected to be lower than in previous tournaments.
England fans felt outnumbered by their Tunisian opponents in the carnival atmosphere of the build-up to England’s first game.
The vocal Tunisian support even prompted one Tunisian TV interviewer to ask an England fan: “Do you feel lonely?”
The travelling support attending the Three Lions’ World Cup opener in Volgograd is expected to be lower than in previous tournaments, with fan violence, high costs and large distances all being cited by supporters as concerns.
And it was evident in the centre of Volgograd on Monday afternoon.
Paul Dubberley, 59, from Aldridge near Walsall, in the West Midlands, said: “I don’t think there’s many England fans here looking around, we’re a bit outnumbered.”
Sean Tansey, 45, from Bury, said: “Last night we walked along down to the stadium and back and we didn’t see any English.
“The night before a World Cup game it was unbelievable.
“Unless we were in the wrong part of town. We went into bars all the way down and there was nothing. In fact I like it that there’s a smaller group.”
Mr Tansey said he had received a warm welcome in the country after travelling for 26 hours to get there.
“I tell you what I love this place,” he said.
“The people are fantastic – they were friendly, welcoming, helpful. The language is a proper barrier and they help us with everything going out of their way.”
And he predicted: “I think we’ll win, don’t think it’ll be easy but 2-0.”
Fellow fan Heidi Ellis, 51, who is originally from Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, said some fans may have been put off by the costs and logistics of the trip.
She said: “I’m sad there aren’t more English here but we’ll be in the stadium cheering the boys on. I think maybe to be honest it’s quite expensive.
“I don’t think it was that easy to sort out your visa ID.
“You had to buy your ticket before you got your entry into the country. You’re a bit worried, say they don’t let you in.
“Personally I think people are going to be sad now they haven’t come.”
Alex Houlding, 25, arrived on Monday after a 23-hour train journey from Moscow.
He travelled with friends Georgios Pilakoutas, 25, from Nether Edge in Sheffield and Nick Hilton, 25, from Chelmsford, in Essex.
Mr Houlding, also from Chelmsford, said he feared England’s 12th man could be out-shouted.
“We haven’t seen a lot of England fans around and we’ve seen a hell of a lot of Tunisian fans so potentially,” he said.
But he said he did not fear any disorder among the fans.
“All the people we’ve encountered so far have been really friendly,” he said.
“We’re keeping an eye out all the same but we haven’t seen anything and I’m not expecting any trouble.”