Fabio Capello's England team will play in a stadium less than half full against Bulgaria in Sofia tomorrow with the Football Association's counterparts in the East European country admitting they are struggling to sell tickets for the Euro 2012 qualifier.
The England team usually prove a major draw wherever they play, and among the most popular, and lucrative, friendly opposition, but Bulgaria appears to have lost interest in tomorrow's match with their country having little chance of qualifying from Group G.
The Bulgarian Football Union officials have sold fewer than 15,000 tickets for the 43,600-capacity Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, according to Reuters. Tickets have been on sale in petrol stations in the country but despite the prospect of watching Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Theo Walcott among others there has been scant interest. Dimitar Berbatov has long since retired from international football and Bulgaria, coached by the former Germany captain Lothar Matthäus, are fourth out of five in the group.
Capello expects Darren Bent to be fit to play tomorrow if selected, although the Aston Villa striker did not train again yesterday. Walcott was understood to be the stand-out performer in training and looks likely to start on the right wing with Ashley Young on the left side.
Manchester United's new defender Phil Jones, signed from Blackburn Rovers for £16.5m this summer, spoke yesterday about his move to Sir Alex Ferguson's champions. "As soon as I knew United were interested it was a no-brainer for me. I knew what a great manager he was and all the great players he has brought through over the years, it's been fantastic. I was really hoping that I could work with him and thankfully the deal went through and here we are."
His team-mate Tom Cleverley, named in an original England squad for the first time this week, said that United's young players hoped to establish themselves with England. "It does help that a batch of us have come through at the same time," Cleverley said. "You're out there playing with people you know, and you know each other's games inside out. At United we've played with no fear and we're playing exciting football, so if we can do the same with the England squad that will be fantastic."