England are set to get their World Cup campaign underway in Russia on Monday evening against Tunisia, but a former hooligan has warned of potential trouble at the tournament.
Russian fans were involved in fierce clashes with England supporters in Marseille in 2016 at the European Championships and fears have been raised English fans could be targeted.
Carlton Leach, who played a leading role in the Inter City Firm associated with West Ham United, even claimed he would not accept a ticket if it was offered to him.
Mr Leach said he could even see an England fan getting killed by Russian hooligan supporters while at the World Cup.
He exclusively told Express.co.uk: “I really feel it this time in Russia. I really think someone will get killed out there.”
Mr Leach claimed he “definitely” thought England supporters would get targeted while they were in Russia.
He said: “If they stay together, within wherever they are staying and under police protection, they will be okay.
“But if they wander off and they do something silly they will get caught. They will be picked off.
“What are the Russia police going to do? If the English start on the Russians, they will smash them to bits and nick them.
“If the Russians start on the English, they will probably just pull them away, but I think we have got to wait and see.”
Mr Leach also claimed the English were seen as an “outcast” among other supporters.
He continued: “If someone gave me a ticket I wouldn’t go. I don’t think it should be played there, after what has gone on there.
“Why have we only staged it once? And won it. We are like the outcast even though we invented football and gave it to the world it just seems like everyone hates the English.”
Steve Guy, who was also involved in the notorious Inter City Firm, claimed the Russia hooligans targeted the English supporters in Marseille in 2016 in a bid to gain a “prize”.
World Cup 2018: Carlton Leach warned England fans could be targeted in Russia
He said: “The Russians see the English as the Godfathers of hooliganism throughout the world. For them to take out the English is the prize.
“They feel they did it in France, but we know they didn’t do it because the English firms were not there.
“They have read all the books and seen all of the movies and they try to copy it. But the thing they do differently is they are all martial artists, back in the day we were all on the street fighters, all cobble fighters.”
He also claimed many of the Russian hooligans were “trained” or “ex-military” when they attacked English supporters in France, adding that “Putin was patting them on the back onto planes – saying ‘go and have some fun lads’.”
Mr Leach was shocked at how many Russian hooligans managed to get to the European Championships when they clashed with English fans.
He said: “I couldn’t believe how the Russian hooligans got away with it. How they can travel through the continent through five different countries, how they were dressed and turned up for a fight.
“Did no one notice them? It’s mental.”
Dr Geoff Pearson, a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at Manchester University and football hooliganism expert, claimed it was unlikely for the scenes that were seen in Marseille will happen again.
He told Express.co.uk: “What we saw in Marseille was incredibly unusual. It is almost unheard of for hooligan groups to travel to a foreign country at an international tournament and to engage in that level of disorder. I would say we have never seen that on that scale or of that nature.
“There is no doubt there is a fear from some English supporters that they are at risk of being attacked by these groups when they are on Russian soil. My view has always been from the moment this disorder took place in Marseille that the Russian authorities would not allow that to happen.
“Everything I have heard coming out of Russia from the end of Euro 2016 up until now supports that view. Obviously, there are never any guarantees, but I would be very surprised to see these kinds of attacks and those kinds of large-scale violence or disorder affecting English supporters travelling.
“It is a huge country, there will inevitably be some minor issues which will affect fans, in the same way you might be affected as a tourist in any country that is a long way from home.”
Dr Pearson added that English supporters were very often targeted but expected police in Russia to be “a lot more savvy” during the World Cup.
He said: “English club supporters travel to Europe regularly and unfortunately they are regularly targeted that may or may not be attached to that team is playing.
I really feel it this time in Russia. I really think someone will get killed out there
“Usually what will happen is it will be late at night, before the match, English supporters would have taken over a pub, they would have been chanting, they would have been singing and then towards the end of the night most of that group have gone away. Perhaps the police that were managing that crowd will have dispersed and you have 10 to 15 very drunk, causing no problems, suddenly those English supporters become a very easy target.
“I would expect the Russian authorities to be savvy this time because they will be a bit more in control of those violent groups, but also I would expect that they would keep security or police at those establishments to act as a deterrent against those type of attacks.
“But, English fans are targeted regularly, it is usually very unreported and English fans still get a very unfair press.”
Dr Pearson said that it would take political will if the UK was to deal with its problem of hooliganism.
He said: “I see no absolute reason, that if there is the political will, hooliganism could be reduced in countries in eastern Europe. One of the problems I hear is that quite often these hooligan groups are ties in with local businesses, local mafia organisations, local politicians and actually sometimes there isn’t the political will to break these groups down and to confront the problem.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have issued key advice for England supporters as they travel to the World Cup.
It reads: “The government’s priority is the safety and security of British fans travelling to Russia for the World Cup. The overwhelming majority of visits to Russia are trouble-free.
“Since 2016, five British teams have played European matches in Russia, with no significant issues reported. However, we encourage British nationals to be good guests wherever they travel in the world and to do their research before they travel to understand local laws and customs, so they can have a safe and enjoyable trip.
“We continue to work with the Russian authorities. World Cups are largely trouble free events and co-operation is in place between the UK and Russian police to help ensure the safety of British nationals, which has included visits by the UK police to Russia and visits by the Russian police to the UK.”
Author and film star Mr Leach has now launched a clothing line with KOfficial, which sees a percentage of its profit goes to helping children off the street and into boxing.
He said: “What we are trying to do is the stabbings and getting them out of the gang life by challenging that gang life into something worthwhile.
“They haven’t got to prove themselves in a gang to move up the ladder, they can do that in the ring, the right way.”