English incognito as they sneak into Glasgow

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The Independent Online
AS ENGLAND football fans congregated at Glasgow's Horse Shoe Bar yesterday there was not a St George's flag in sight. They drifted in incognito, marked out only by their short hair and sports bags.

The Horse Shoe is a Rangers pub and, though its customary Union flags had been taken down for today's Scotland v England match, the advice from taxi drivers was that it was the safest place for strangers. "We're more accepting of England than a Celtic pub might be," explained Russell Bell, the pub manager.

"I've left my St George's flag on my bed in the hotel," Louise Chester confirmed as she and her friends queued for pie and mushy peas at 80p and a pint of White Thistle at 66p.

The locals, meanwhile, were preparing for their traditional show of defiance against the auld enemy. "All the boys are meeting to get their faces painted and put on their kilts and the usual `we all hate the English' T-shirts," said Michael Duggan from Cumbernauld. "It's all in jest, honest. I love the English, though I couldn't eat a full one."

As fans prepared for what has been dubbed the Battle of Britain, hundreds of uniformed police patrolled Glasgow to deter would-be troublemakers.

At 2pm today most of Scotland will close down. And it will not be a day to be in the wrong place. John Maxwell, 57, bought his ticket in England and was trying to swap it for one in the Scottish enclosure. "If I can't, I'll have to keep my mouth shut all afternoon," he said.

Many were more optimistic, reckoning that the fear of violence was overblown. "The game may be all blood and snotters," said Chris Logue of the Tartan Army, "but for the England hooligans it will be handbags at dawn. It is too close to home for the English to make trouble. They know it's only a question of the police ringing the folks back home. It's not like when you are abroad."

One England fan said: "At least the police here will treat us as human beings. We went to Bulgaria and some of our guys who were doing nothing got scooped up and ended up doing time in the salt mines."

John Chandler, from Peterborough, reckoned the police presence would deter violence. "They've got it sorted: 5,000 police for 6,000 England fans. That's almost one for each of us."