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Published 25th Jan 2012

Mayor Ray Mallon and Steve Gibson

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon has joined Tony Mowbray in calling on the town to get behind England U21s when they play Belgium at the Riverside on Wednesday February 29.

It's the first time that the Riverside has hosted an England international since the Under-21s beat Azerbaijan in 2005 in front of 19,095 and Mowbray believes that a similar crowd for the 6pm kick-off next month will spur on Stuart Pearce's young side as they look to qualify for the 2013 UEFA European Championship in Israel.

"Everyone knows that the North East is a passionate football area and this is our chance to show it to the rest of the country," said Mowbray, who won three England B caps during his playing career.

"England Under-21s have attracted some big crowds when playing at places such as Norwich City and Southampton, so there's no reason why Middlesbrough can't follow suit.

"There's some real talent in England's youth system, our fans see two every week in Jason Steele and Joe Bennett, so they're doing well to be considered alongside Premier League talent such as Josh McEachran and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain."

Mallon is hopeful that the town's support for the Under-21s next month will help Middlesbrough's Olympic aspirations as well: "I have no doubt there will be a good crowd to cheer England along and that can only boost hopes that the Riverside might host Team GB's warm-up game in readiness for the Olympics.

"There is already much anticipation about the Olympic Torch visiting Middlesbrough, so for the town to play host to a Team GB line-up would make our town feel very much part of the 2012 Games."

Tickets for England top of the table battle with Belgium on Wednesday February 29 (6pm kick-off) are on sale now by calling 0844 499 1234, via www.mfc.co.uk or in person at the Riverside ticket office.

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