Roy Hodgson in plea for calm as England take on Ireland at Wembley
Coach Hodgson sends e-mail to fans attending friendly in bid to avoid repeat of 1995 riots
Associated Press in London
English soccer authorities are going to great lengths to try to prevent tonight's friendly against Ireland being marred by political chanting and abuse.
The match at Wembley Stadium will celebrate the 150th anniversary of England's Football Association and will be the first time the neighbours have met since the 1995 match in Dublin, which was abandoned when English fans rioted.
The FA has sent an e-mail written by England coach Roy Hodgson to all ticket buyers, imploring them not to take part in chanting that might offend.
"Wembley is considered the world over as the home of football, and we ask those attending to not take part in any chanting - particularly of a religious or political perspective - which could cause offence to our visitors or fellow fans," Hodgson wrote.
England fans can still be heard chanting "No surrender to the IRA" and similar at matches, a throwback to the times of "The Troubles", when the Irish Republican Army was challenging British rule over Northern Ireland, resulting in about 3,000 deaths over three decades.
It was against that background that English fans rioted during the previous friendly at Dublin's Lansdowne Road, forcing the abandonment of the game after 28 minutes as the travelling supporters tore up wooden benches and threw them at home fans. More than 20 people required hospital treatment and over 40 were arrested.
Alan Kelly, who is now Ireland's goalkeeping coach, was in goal on that day.
"It was horrendous … the mayhem that was caused and the potentially life-threatening injuries some of the supporters could have sustained," Kelly recalled on Monday. "Some of the debris that came down from the stands was truly horrific.
"Unfortunately, I was on the pitch and saw it turn into a riot."
The political and sectarian strife in Northern Ireland, and between the two nations has eased considerably since 1995, but there will be large numbers of police and stewards at Wembley tonight to guard against any repeat of crowd violence.
"Football has moved on and made great strides [since 1995]," Kelly said. "We've got to be vigilant in terms of what could happen in terms of the fans, but listen, it's 150 years of the FA we are celebrating.
"We are delighted to be part of that, everyone wants to see a fantastic football game, and that's what we want the game to be remembered for."