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Published 12th Jan 2012

Alan Peacock

Boro legend Alan Peacock will be the guest of honour when England U21s take on Belgium in a European Championship qualifier at the Riverside next month.

The 74-year-old, who scored 125 goals in the club's colours, has been invited to the game on February 29 by the FA as Stuart Pearce's Young Lions look to qualify for the 2013 UEFA European Championship in Israel.

"It's a real honour to be asked and I'm really looking forward to seeing an England side playing in my home town," said Peacock, who made his own international debut under Walter Winterbottom at the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile.

Peacock went on to score three goals in six games for his country and this year marks 50 years since his debut.

"Amazingly, I can still remember my first international appearance," he said. "I'd been out with a fractured cheekbone and missed the first game but I was brought into the team to face Argentina.

"There were some great players in that team. Ron Flowers, Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves all scored in that Argentina game and the likes of Bobby Moore, Jimmy Armfield, Johnny Haynes and Bobby Robson were in the squad too."

Alan Peacock playing golf at a Middlesbrough Former Players Association event - photo by North News

Stuart Pearce made his name in Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest side and Peacock remembers his former Boro strike partner with great fondness.

"We knew each other for a very long time," he said. "We were brought up together in the Middlesbrough A team, played for the first team while doing National Service and, in later life, he'd often accept my invite to watch the team at the Riverside.

"I always kept an eye on how Brian was doing in management and he built some great teams at Forest.

"Stuart Pearce was a real hard man on the pitch and I'm pleased that he's proving a success at coaching as well."

Middlesbrough football fans urged to support England

A win would see England reach the finals tournament in Israel next summer, having been the only country to qualify for the previous three.

And FA director of communications Adrian Bevington - a Boro fan who started his public relations career with the club - is hoping a bumper crowd will turn out for the prestigious fixture.

"It's a really important game for the Under 21s," he said. "Belgium are a strong side, they're second in the group and are the only team to have beaten us.

"If we win the game we qualify and that would give us the opportunity to look at some other players before going to the finals.

"We've seen fantastic crowds for England games at different levels at Norwich, Derby, Brighton, Leicester, Reading and Southampton and we've set the ticket pricing very, very competitively at £10 for adults and £5 for children and for Boro Season Card holders £5 for adults and £2.50 for children.

"We're really calling on fans to get behind the team as we try to take the U21s round the country and showcase some of our best talent.

"The more ticket sales we get in advance the better, because it's important for Middlesbrough to get a good crowd."

Stuart Pearce's side have an excellent record of producing players for the senior England squad and Adrian is hoping that will continue with the current crop.

"A significant number of players from previous tournaments have come through to win full England caps," he said.

"We've recently seen people like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones break forward into the senior team.

"There are a couple of Boro players in Jason Steele and Joe Bennett who have consistently been in the squad and there are a number of others who are making their names at the moment, such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Josh McEachran."

With the senior team now contractually obliged to play all home games at Wembley Stadium, Adrian says nights like these are the next best thing.

"They can be really enjoyable evenings and it's a good opportunity for young fans in particular to come and see some of the best young talent we have available," he said.

"I look back with incredible memories of the night the senior team played here against Slovakia in 2003. It was a wonderful night and hopefully we can get a really big crowd for this night as well."

The squad will be based at Boro's Rockliffe Park training HQ for a few days ahead of the game.

Tickets are on sale now costing £10 (adults) and £5 (children) while Boro Season Card holders pay just £5 (adults) and £2.50 (children).

They are available online here, by calling 0844 499 1234, or in person at the Riverside Stadium ticket office.

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