England fans have begun to descend on Volgograd ahead of the Three Lions’ first World Cup match.
The travelling support received a warm welcome from locals, some of whom wore England or Premier League replica shirts themselves.
At the Fifa fan fest on the banks of the river Volga, in the city more than 500 miles from Moscow, pockets of support queued up at the bar before watching Argentina play Iceland on the huge screen under the hot sun.
Among them was Chris Clarke, from Springhill Terrace in Rugeley, Staffordshire, who flew in via Moscow.
The 48-year-old said: “I was a bit worried about what it was going got be like, but soon realised it’s an amazing place.
“It’s so clean, so friendly and everyone is really polite.
“Everyone’s coming up to me asking me where I’m from. I’ve seen about 10 England fans, there’s more Russians in England shirts.
“Yesterday I wasn’t wearing my England shirt and no one came to me – today everyone is coming to me and welcoming me to Russia.”
Mr Clarke said he was in Marseille during the European Championships in 2016, and was concerned there may be a repeat of the violence which marred the tournament.
Asked if he was nervous to wear his replica shirt, he said: “Yesterday yes, today not at all – straight on this morning.
“I was in Marseille – it wasn’t good at all.
“But I’ve spoken to Russians in the last two years and they’ve said that’s not what Russia is like.
“And I believe them.”
Fellow fans Dave Inniss and Martin Barnes had a slightly more long-winded journey, taking around 30 hours and involving three flights.
Mr Inniss, 52, from Launceston, in Cornwall, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant – really nice people.”
Mr Barnes, of Hendra Vale, in Launceston, said he was a “little bit” concerned about reports of potential violence.
But he said: “We travelled over not wearing our colours, but everyone else is so we thought why not.
“We just want to represent our country.
“The excitement is a lot greater than the anticipation.”
Mr Inniss added: “That’s all gone.”
As for the football, both men said they hoped England would reach a quarter final.
“I promise myself every year I won’t get swept up in it, but every year I get swept up,” Mr Barnes said.
England play Tunisia at 7pm UK time on Monday.