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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 16:41 GMT
England boss has high hopes
By Pete Oliver

Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium
England will face Italy at the Abbey Stadium on Wednesday
National Game manager Paul Fairclough believes non-league football will provide more players for the full England side in the future.

Fairclough's team plays Italy in their second game in the European Trophy at Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium on Wednesday, 15 February.

And even if none of his current batch of players graduates to the senior England set-up, Fairclough is adamant that it will happen again and others will follow in the footsteps of Alan Smith and Steve Guppy.

He told BBC Sport: "I think it's only a matter of time before we see someone go through from here to full international level.

"You never know what happens. Look at young Dudley Campbell, who has gone from non-league to the Premiership.

"There are some very good players out there who will go on. A lot of players from previous squads are now playing in the Football League and I would expect these ones to do that.

"This is a platform and I would expect all the professional clubs to come to these games. Those who didn't see Dudley Campbell playing might be kicking themselves now."

Campbell was previously signed by Fairclough when he was in charge of Stevenage Borough.

The 24-year-old subsequently joined Yeading, with whom he earned an England non-league call-up last season, before moving to Brentford and then Birmingham in a 500,000 deal last month.

The response you get from the players is wonderful
Paul Fairclough
Those looking to follow a similar path include the Accrington Stanley pair of Ian Craney and Gary Roberts, Stevenage winger George Boyd and Morecambe full-back David Perkins.

England's under-23 squad won their first game in the new European tournament, beating Belgium 2-0 in November.

And Fairclough, who combines his duties with his job as manager of Conference champions Barnet, is enjoying the challenge of European football.

"Having been a Conference manager myself I was aware that the team was playing games that were in fact friendlies, which were viewed by some managers and chairman as meaningless," he said.

"I didn't want to be attached to that. We now have the Four Nations tournament and for me it was also important to start and establish a real European tournament.

"We have always had great euphoria in England games, but now there is an extra spice and something extra for the crowd as well.

"And the response you get from the players is wonderful. It's nothing short of miraculous when they pull those shirts on."

The profile of the international non-league side has also been lifted since they were taken under the wing of the Football Association, rebranded as the National Game XI and regarded as part of the England set-up.

England National Game XI boss Paul Fairclough
Fairclough combines his England duties with managing Barnet
"It has been really embraced now. We do everything to prepare players properly, physically, mentally, tactically and nutritionally," added Fairclough, who will again be assisted by Northwich boss Steve Burr.

The Italian side will be made up of players from Serie C and after their shock defeat to Holland, England can take a firm grip on the four-team competition if they win again on Wednesday.

"The Italians will be very strong. We played them at Shrewsbury a couple of years ago and they murdered us, but we beat them 1-0 over there last season so there will be a lot at stake," Fairclough added.

"If we beat them it will be fantastic for us. And the great thing about it being a tournament is that they will come having to win, which is exciting for me as a manager.

"It's also exciting for the players and the supporters to see different styles of play."

For the first time, the FA has decided to charge an admission fee for the game.

However, with prices at just 5 and 1 they are optimistic of a decent crowd to support some of England's rising stars of today and possibly tomorrow.

England National Game squad

Goalkeepers: Shwan Jalal (Woking), Paul Jones (Exeter)
Defenders: Chris Blackburn (Morecambe), David Bampton (Tamworth), Kieran Charnock (Burton), Ryan Austin (Burton), Tamika Mkandawire (Hereford)
Midfield: David Perkins (Morecambe), Michael Carr (Northwich), Carl Baker (Southport), Craig Mackail-Smith (Dagenham & Redbridge), Ian Craney (Accrington), Gary Roberts (Accrington)
Strikers: Jon Shaw (Burton), Andy Bishop (York), George Boyd (Stevenage)


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