By Dave Allan
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Boro are selling tickets for the England Under-21 game on February 29 at a faster rate than Premier League Norwich City achieved when they last hosted the nation’s young talent.
With more than 13,000 tickets already sold more than a week before the Euro qualifier with Belgium, Boro are well ahead of the pre-match sales achieved by the Canaries for what was eventually a 25,000 sell-out crowd against Romania in 2010.
In fact, it’s possible the Riverside may even host a crowd of more than 30,000 for the first time since Manchester United came to Teesside shortly before relegation from the Premier League in May 2009.
The attractively priced tickets, combined with discounts for Season Card holders and those making group bookings, are enticing many Teessiders to book their seats in advance for a match that could see England qualify for the European Championships.
More than 2,000 tickets for the game were sold in the 48 hours after a young Boro side that finished with eight local players on the pitch lost narrowly to Sunderland in the FA Cup.
And the likely inclusion of talented Boro duo Joe Bennett and Jason Steele in a national squad peppered with young Premier League talent has also caught the imagination of Teesside football fans.
Club England Managing Director Adrian Bevington said: “Advance sales are very promising and we’re hopeful fans will continue to snap up tickets over the next two weeks. It would be wonderful to see an attendance around the 30,000 mark by the time the game kicks off.”
Middlesbrough-born Bevington added: “A big crowd and a great atmosphere could make all the difference for England on the night, so we’re delighted Middlesbrough supporters are showing such a passion for international football.
“It’s also heartening to see so many local organisations taking advantage of the discounted ticket prices available for group bookings.”
Organisations backing the big game by offering staff discounted tickets include Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough councils, Middlesbrough Business Forum, Teesside University, Middlesbrough College and SABIC UK Petrochemicals.
Teesside Junior Football Alliance, the world’s biggest football league, is also backing the game, with member clubs able to snap up tickets for £5 adults and £2.50 under-18s. FA Charter clubs also qualify for 25 free tickets per club.
Not since 31,473 packed into Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium for a clash with the Republic of Ireland in 2008 has an England Under-21 game attracted more than 30,000 fans.