Stadium will be volatile and tense for England’s clash with Montenegro with mood of protest in the air
- England take on Montenegro in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday night
- A mood of protest is in the air in Podgorica where the game will be played
- Protests against the president Milo Djukanovic have entered into a third week
A mood of protest is in the air in Podgorica, a city which England have found to be an incendiary place in the past.
Around 4,000 Montenegrins rallied in the capital’s main square on Saturday night as protests against the president Milo Djukanovic entered a third week.
They passed off without trouble, although England fans are being urged to display respect and not to travel without tickets ahead of Monday’s encounter in a tight stadium which can be volatile.
Police keep an eye on a group of England fans enjoying drinks in Podgorica on Sunday
A mood of protest is in the air in the capital where the game will be played on Monday
The Montenegro FA have allocated only 690 tickets to their English counterparts — the minimum five per cent — for the mere 11,000-capacity stadium. More were being openly touted to visitors on Sunday, however.
Tickets bought for £10 by locals were being sold for £40 in the afternoon sunshine to England fans intent on seeing Gareth Southgate’s side — and up to 300 may have changed hands.
British police have asked their Montenegrin counterparts to remove any England fans who show up among the home support, rather than seeking to relocate them in the away end, and have been assured of co-operation.
Although travel to the country, via Austria, Turkey or Albania, is arduous for those not allocated a ticket by the FA-backed England Supporters’ Travel Club, it shows the lengths fans will go.
England fans are being urged to display respect and not to travel without tickets
The presence of known trouble-makers is unlikely. Those who pose a serious risk have been made the subject of the 1,800 banning orders in place, recipients of which must surrender their passports when England are playing on foreign soil.
Police were at a number of British airports on Sunday to help identify banned fans who might attempt to travel. But it is a new, younger breed of fans who drink to excess and behave anti-socially that has become a source of concern.
Two matches in the past 12 months — in Seville and Amsterdam — were the source of extreme disorder. England’s Nations League semi-final against Holland — a late evening kick-off in the modest Portuguese city of Guimaraes in June — is a concern.
The policing challenge tonight is made no easier by the 200-yard proximity of the main bars to the Gradski Stadium.
A new breed of fans who drink to excess and behave anti-socially has become a concern
This is the place where, after the 2-2 draw eight years ago, a group of Montenegro Ultras invaded the pitch and tried, unsuccessfully, to entice England fans into joining them for a fight. Two years later, local riot police were sent in after Montenegro fans began fighting each other.
Manager Ljubisa Tumbakovic’s side have lost their last two home games, to Serbia and Romania in the Nations League, and drew 1-1 in Bulgaria on Friday in their opening game of this group. Their stellar players are still the ex-Manchester City pair Stevan Jovetic and Stefan Savic. Jovetic is missing through injury, with Savic also a doubt.
Asked to identify weaknesses in the England squad, Tumbakovic replied: ‘I’m really trying but I can’t.’ The biggest challenge appears to be off the pitch. The stadium is distinctive for the dark netting draped in front of all supporters to prevent missiles being hurled.
England’s players were pelted with missiles when the nations clashed in 2013