Historic day in prospect for Town fans

MORE than 3,000 Ipswich Town fans will witness history being made on August 20 when Portman Road becomes the first ever Division One venue to host a full England international, writes Derek Davis.

MORE than 3,000 Ipswich Town fans will witness history being made on August 20 when Portman Road becomes the first ever Division One venue to host a full England international, writes Derek Davis.

The Football Association has confirmed 10% of the 30,250 seats for England's friendly against Croatia will be allocated to Blues supporters, although more Town fans can apply for tickets through Ticketmaster.

Tickets go on sale for the England game on Sunday, July 13, at 10am, costing £20, £25 and £35 from Ticketmaster by calling 0870 902 0005.

But the game is expected to be so popular tickets are likely to be sold within an hour of release, with England Supporters Club members getting priority. The recent England international against Slovakia at Middlesbrough was sold out in 52 minutes.

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Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks, whose lobbying to the FA played a crucial role in securing the prestigious and important European qualifier warm-up match, spoke of the honour at staging the game.

He said: "We are very proud to be invited to stage a full international at Portman Road. It is a reflection of the improvements around the stadium, the professionalism of the staff is clearly recognised, but above all, the extraordinary support this club has generated over the years."

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Ipswich Town have provided two England mangers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, and are now supplying the venue for the senior national side.

Sheepshanks added: "It is a huge feather in the cap for the club and for everyone who loves this club and is involved it is a huge honour. Of course we would like Ipswich Town to return to the Premiership and win honours but to have this game bestowed on your club by the national federation has to be the highest honour you can have.

"This is a strong reflection on which the esteem this club is held. Not withstanding our recent financial difficulties, we have a track record here of professional management as we have shown in hosting England under-21 and under-19 internationals in the past."

Portman Road has held four England under-21 games, against Switzerland, Romania, Albania and Czech Republic and an under-23 match versus the Swiss in 1973.

But the England under-19 win against Germany on Valentine's Day last year when Darren Bent scored twice in the 3-1 win, which also saw Matt Bloomfield make a substitute appearance, went a long way in securing this senior tie, with more than 20,000 attending, still an England record for any home game below under-21 level.

Although now an England under-21, Bent may still be some way off full international honours, although Ipswich will also hope to have at least one old boy in the starting line-up with Kieron Dyer a regular in Eriksson's side.

Paul Barber, the FA's director of marketing and communication, said: "This is a great set-up. The 20,000 crowd against Germany shows what a hotbed of football this part of the country is. It shows the desire and willingness that stands us in good stead for August and I have no doubt tickets will be sold immediately they are on sale.

"We have had tremendous support from David Sheepshanks and Derek Bowden and all the staff at Ipswich, who have shown great enthusiasm to host this game, and there is nothing better than a willing host.

"Croatia will be very good opposition; they are an attractive and good footballing side."

Since Wembley was closed to England prior to demolition, 12 other stadiums have been used to stage senior internationals around the country but once Wembley is rebuilt England will cease their road show of internationals, as the FA is committed to holding all senior matches in the new national stadium.

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