Fabio praises Boro youth system
Saturday, 04 February, 2012
England manager recalls an appearance at Ayresome Park in 1970.
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In just under four weeks, England Under-21s arrive in Middlesbrough for their 2013 UEFA European Championship Qualifier against Belgium.
The same night, England's senior team take on Holland at Wembley, but manager Fabio Capello looks back to 1970 when he played against the Teessiders in an Anglo-Italian Cup match at their old Ayresome Park home.
Capello has also paid tribute to the club's youth policy, which has produced players like Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson, who have gone on to become regulars for the Three Lions.
"Over my time as England Manager there has been a development of the young players who have now come into the senior team," said Capello.
"It has taken time, you cannot rush the progress of young people if they are not ready, but we are seeing a new group of players involved at the top level.
"To reach the stage where you can play for your club and country on the highest stage you have to go through a series of steps.
"Youth teams and the Academy structures are so important to improve yourself all the time, because the last step is the hardest one to make.
"England Under-21s are the last part of the development for a player before they can make the step to senior level."
Capello continued: "Stuart Pearce has brought through many players throughout my time as England Manager, and that process will never stop.
"I know from my work with the Academy at AC Milan just how different an approach you must take when working with younger players compared to those with greater experience.
"You have to encourage them and work closely so they learn every day how to improve. This is the stage where you have to work hard if you want to reach the top.
"Stuart has qualified for three European Championships in a row, which is fantastic for the players to have that tournament experience. But every time a player, at any age, puts on the shirt of his country it is a big test to see if they can deliver.
"This game with Belgium will be no different for the players involved, wearing the shirt and with a fantastic crowd supporting them it is a special moment.
"Not many people know that I have played against Middlesbrough. It was in the Anglo-Italian Cup, maybe 40 years ago, when I was with Roma and at the old ground, Ayresome Park," he remembers.
"I have been to the Riverside Stadium as well, when the club was in the Premier League. Maybe Tony Mowbray can put Middlesbrough back there soon. I sat with him and David Moyes at an LMA dinner in 2008 and we met again, recently, for The FA's Youth Development Review at Staverton Park.
"I played and managed at AC Milan, Roma and Juventus and Tony has done the same for Middlesbrough. This history with the fans brings an extra passion for success.
"One thing I know is that Middlesbrough is a club that understands the importance of bringing the young players through the academy. The fans respect this and they appreciate the players who come through, and I know they will show their support as England's young players come to the Riverside."
Tickets for England's meeting with Belgium on Wednesday 29 February 2012 (6pm ko) are on sale now. Calling 0844 499 1234, buy online at www.mfc.co.uk or in person at the Riverside ticket office.