SATURDAY morning – the morning after the night before – and the England fans outside the Queen Victoria pub in Marseille’s Vieux Port are already in full voice. “No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the IRA.” Every now and then, the singing is blurred out by the sound of broken glass crunching underfoot.

Eighteen years on from England’s last tear-up in Marseille, here we are again, listening to the same old songs, watching the same old images of police baton charging groups of supporters and releasing canisters of tear gas in an attempt to quell the trouble. Why always us, and why suddenly back here in Marseille?

Any analysis of the events that have turned parts of Marseille into something akin to a war zone over the weekend has to start with an acknowledgement that a minority of England supporters have to shoulder a sizeable degree of the blame.

It is only a minority – on Saturday, perhaps 300 or so fans out of a total English support of around 30,000 were involved in a series of running battles with Russian supporters, locals and the French police – but that is an irrelevance when the images captured by the world’s media portray their behaviour as the norm.

I have been all over Europe covering England in the last decade or so – Tallinn, Minsk, Chisinau – and there is a hardcore of right-wing support that has never gone away. The FA might trumpet the success of their attempts to ban a certain section of supporters from travelling, and point to the increased number of women and children among the England support as proof of a changed demographic, but the reality is that England games attract a fringe element of far-right nationalists.

The difference in the last few days is that they have bolstered by an unusually large number of 20-25 year olds, intent on drinking all day and happy to become embroiled in whatever trouble ensues.

They are the demographic that have been standing outside O’Malley’s Irish bar all day, and they were the group involved in running battles all over the Vieux Port area on Friday night. Not hooligans per se, but youngsters more than happy to go in with fists flying if the opportunity arises. And this weekend, the opportunity has been there for most hours of the day.

Where have they been at previous tournaments? At home presumably. The World Cups in Japan and South Korea, South Africa and Brazil were so far away that a certain type of fan could not afford to travel. The last Euros, in Poland and Ukraine, didn’t make as much appeal as a weekend of sun on France’s Mediterranean coast.

So after an absence of a number of years, they are here in numbers this weekend and have been attracted, like moths to a light, to the flashpoints of trouble. The simple reality is that if you wanted to stay away from trouble in Marseille, you could. On Friday night, while all hell was breaking out around the Old Port, I watched France’s game with Romania two tube stops away in a bar full of French locals. By the end of the evening, they were buying my beer.

So if you’re going to hang around an area of town that has been the focus for violence the previous evening, you shouldn’t be particularly surprised if more trouble ensues.

That said, however, it would be wrong to pin all of the blame for this weekend’s disorder on the English support. The fact trouble has flared here in Marseille, the scene of 1998’s violence and carnage is far from a coincidence.

From the scenes I witnessed myself on Friday and Saturday, and from first-hand conversations with a number of those involved, it is undeniable that England fans have been actively targeted by large gangs of local youths intent on provoking violence.

Take an incident at the Havana Club, in the Old Port area, on Friday night for example. A large group of English fans were happily watching France’s opening game, inside and outside of the bar, when a group of around dozen locals began hurling bottles, bricks and chairs into the crowd.

Chairs were thrown back in the opposite direction, and a series of scuffles broke out for 30 seconds or so. The French riot police arrived, the group of locals disappeared off into the back streets, and the English supporters were struck with batons and attacked with tear gas. What were they meant to do, and where were they meant to go?

There are a number of similar stories doing the rounds out here, and while England’s game with Wales in Lens on Thursday provides another potential flashpoint, it is hard to imagine that this weekend’s scenes would have happened had England been playing in Paris or even Nice, a few miles along the coast.

As well as being France’s most ethnically diverse city, Marseille is also acknowledged as being the country’s most volatile. When I checked into my hotel on Thursday, the receptionist, Phillipe, unfolded a map. He showed me the stadium, the metro lines and the main tourist points. He then drew three big circles, one around the Castellane metro stop, another at a beach area close to the port and another that encompassed huge swathes of the northern suburbs. “Do not go here,” he said. “Bad people are there.”

The memories of 1998 are still powerful here, especially amongst the Tunisian population, and it certainly feels as though some of the locals have been spoiling for this moment for most of the last two decades.

They see taking on England fans as something of a badge of honour, and have been active participants in the chaos that has ensued. According to reports in the French media, there are parts of Marseille that are no-go areas even for the police.

On Saturday, the appearance of organised gangs of Russian hooligans was also a major issue. Operating in packs, they were willing to ambush any English fans that stood in their way, leading to some extremely serious injuries. Clearly, they had been waiting for their moment to strike, and did not worry that women and children were in their way.

The scenes that accompanied the final whistle in the Stade Velodrome on Saturday night were equally shocking, with hundreds of Russian fans breaking through a security cordon to charge at English supporters in the same stand.

As the English fans fled, punches were thrown, and this was certainly not a case of the English being the aggressors. Russia, the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, clearly has a major hooliganism problem, and it remains to be seen whether UEFA impose sanctions for Saturday’s disorder in the stands. That the Russian fans also let off flares and fireworks is another major issue.

As ever with these things, there are multiple causal factors behind everything that went on this weekend. But the end result is that English football is back in the gutter and hooliganism is once again being described as ‘the English disease’. That wasn’t what Euro 2016 was supposed to be about, but for many, the tournament’s abiding images will have nothing to do with the action on the field.

* Have you been in Marseille this weekend, did you witness the violent scenes, or do you know somebody who was there? Call our newsdesk on 01325-485022 or email