England will line up at Wembley on Tuesday night for their crucial World Cup qualifier in front of the biggest away following at the stadium for any competitive game – around 20,000 Poland fans, according to that country’s football association.
It is the Polish governing body’s estimate that 20,000 Poles will be in the stadium after the original 8,000 ticket allocation given to them by the English Football Association sold out and a further 10,000 were sold by the FA to Poles in the UK and Poland. The Polish FA believes more will buy tickets in other areas of the ground.
The FA claims that once the 18,000 tickets were sold to Polish fans they only sold home tickets to English supporters who had bought tickets in the past, in order to keep the two sets of supporters apart.
The Polish fans are expected to be accommodated in the East Stand, the area of the stadium ordinarily used for away fans, with segregation in place. The FA believes the away support will contribute to the atmosphere on the night, and says that bigger allocations were given to away supporters for the friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Scotland this year.
“With high demand for tickets from the large Polish community in England, the FA took the decision, based on safety grounds, to ensure Polish fans were allocated space in a specific area of the ground, rather than attempting to buy tickets in home areas,” read an FA statement released last night.
The Polish football association spokesman Jakub Kwiatkowski said yesterday that Poland have a history of taking large away followings to games in which they have significant expat communities. The Polish FA estimated that there were 20,000 Poles in the 65,000-strong crowd for their World Cup group stage game against Germany in 2006 at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion.
Kwiatkowski said: “Knowing how many [Polish] people live in Great Britain, we know how many will attend this game, even though now we don’t have a chance to qualify. For a lot of people it’s a very, very big game and a very special game.
“I think there will be 20,000 Polish fans. It is England and its football story. On 17 October we will have the 40th anniversary of the [World Cup qualifying] game in 1973. After that result we started a golden era of Polish football, we qualified for the World Cup and finished third.
“Every time we play England, everyone thinks about this game 40 years ago. We don’t have a chance to qualify but games against England are very special. Every time we play in a country with a big Polish community... they live in England but the team from the motherland is your country. It is always better to go to work the next day and say to their English colleagues ‘We beat you’.”
Roy Hodgson called up Raheem Sterling over the weekend for tomorrow’s game. He is without the suspended Kyle Walker, who was booked during Friday night’s win over Montenegro. Poland, who can no longer qualify, will be without the suspended Lukasz Szukala, the Steaua Bucharest centre-half, who picked up a booking in the defeat to Ukraine.
With his team requiring just one win to finish top of Group H, Hodgson said he would be warning his players to guard against complacency until he was “blue in the face”. “I don’t imagine there will be any,” he said.