A corner of a foreign bar which is (for now) Eng-ger-land

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It was barely gone 9pm and in the Euro Bar on the edge of Amsterdam's Dam square, the singing had already begun.

It was barely gone 9pm and in the Euro Bar on the edge of Amsterdam's Dam square, the singing had already begun.

The favourite song of a certain type of England supporter may not be particularly erudite or even tuneful but it does have the benefit of lyrics which are so simple that anyone can join in. If they want to.

"Eng-ger-land, Eng-ger-land, Eng-ger-land," came the chant, repeated three times and then concluded with a resolute "Eng-ger-land, Eng-ger-land".

Not surprisingly, few of the internationally mixed clientele of the Euro bar chose to join in with the singing - those not from England looking on, bemused, while even many of those wearing the cross of St George preferred to stare into their beers rather embarrassed.

But, get ready. For the next few weeks this is the way it is going to be and the television screens will be full of images such as this. No matter how good the football, no tournament is complete without the fans who have this weekend started arriving in the Low Countries for Euro 2000.

Although a number of English fans have been turned back trying to enter the Netherlands and Belgium, so far there has there has been no trouble and many of the England supporters who spent Saturday night touring the Dutch capital are hopeful the focus will be in the football.

"For us, it is nothing to go to the pub, have some beers and start singing," said Stuart Bell, 33, a salesman from Reading, who was one of those deciding not to join in the chant at the Euro Bar.

"It's ok at home, but overseas, people don't necessarily understand our football culture. We are just being fans but other people might not appreciate that, the same as we do not understand their football customs."

His friend, Nick Till, 40, a publican from Reading, added: "There are some real dickheads in here but you have to just be aware what is going on. If you realise it is starting to get tense you have to move on."

Contrary to some expectations, the atmosphere in Amsterdam last night was remarkably calm and while the police were evident, they did not take to the streets in heavy numbers.

Supporters of different countries were happy to mingle in the bars around the main square or those that fill the city's red light district.

"We have been in Liverpool and London and we like the English fans," said Hamar Trykk, a Norwegian fan from Storhamar, as he proudly showed off a card proving he was a member of the Norwegian section of the Liverpool supporters club. "Most English fans are really nice and we have never had any trouble. We have seen some skinheads and they have been fine too. 'Come and have a beer,' they said."

A German sitting behind him agreed that, at this stage, he was quite optimistic there might not be any trouble. "I have seen nothing wrong," said Christophe Zschommler, a law student from Koblenz. "I just hope that England do not have to play Turkey. If that happens I think it will be war."

But even last night in the warm, pleasant atmosphere of central Amsterdam there were signs that things may not always be so peaceful. At a bar alongside the canal that runs through the red light district two Dutch police were trying to calm a clearly well-refreshed English fan who stood roaring at them like an animal.

After a couple of minutes of listening to him, the two officers decided to give it up as a bad job. "We have not had any trouble, but this might become the first incident," said one of the two policemen. "Sometimes they drink too much and it goes to their heads."

But at least two dozen English football fans will be denied the opportunity to sample foreign lager. All on a list of known or suspected hooligans they were turned back at the Dutch and Belgian borders yesterday and forced to return to Britain.

Among them were Stuart Burke, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who is suspected by the National Criminal Intelligence Service of being involved in trouble during the 1998 World Cup. Justin Barrell, from Leicester, and Anthony Harrison, from Loughborough, both with convictions for threatening behaviour, were also prevented from getting into Belgium on the Eurostar.

Glen Sparks, a fan with a conviction for violent disorder, failed even to make it out of Britain after he was stopped at Harwich Port in Essex.

"That should get the message over that if you are on a list, don't travel," a Home Office source said.