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Gary Speed's Wales Millennium Stadium sell-out call

2012 European Championship qualifying Group G - Wales v England
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 26 March Kick-off: 1500 GMT
Coverage: Full coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & online, live text commentary and score updates on BBC Sport website.

Gary Speed
Former captain Gary Speed is Wales' most-capped outfield player

Boss Gary Speed hopes Wales' underdogs can provide a "catalyst" to maintaining Millennium Stadium sell-outs with a thrilling show against England.

Wales' Euro 2012 qualifier with rivals England will be Welsh football's first full house at the Cardiff arena since hosting the English in September 2005.

Speed led Wales when they boasted being Europe's best supported country in the Euro 2004 qualifiers with 70,000 gates.

"The goal is that we have to play at the Millennium Stadium," said Speed.

"Because the demand for tickets is there. And hopefully the England game will go a long way to doing that."

The Football Association of Wales, whose last home qualifying crowd in defeat by Bulgaria in October was just 18,800, have sold all 69,000 tickets for the first home and first competitive game of Speed.

The former Newcastle United and Everton midfielder skippered Wales when the national side regularly played in front of sell-out crowds when Mark Hughes' men came close to qualifying for the 2004 European Championships before losing to Russia in a two-legged play-off.

Now Wales' most-capped outfield international hopes to create similar interest with a group of young players who Speed feels has more potential than his golden era.

Speed often lined up alongside Ryan Giggs, John Hartson and Robbie Savage as Wales attracted the crowds but he feels Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale and co could break Wales' qualifying hoodoo as they have time on their side.

Wales have not qualified for a major tournament finals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden - and while beating England is important for Speed, qualifying for a major tournament is the main priority.

"The opposition we're playing has a lot to do with the sell-out of the stadium," acknowledged Speed.

"But the ambition for me is that we have to play every game at the Millennium Stadium because the demand for tickets is so great that the other grounds will be too small.

"And I hope this England game is the catalyst for that.

"I played there in front of a full house against Azerbaijan - and Azerbaijan didn't pull the crowd in, we did.

"England is a massive game and something to saviour but the ultimate goal is to qualify for a tournament."

Wales had played all of their home qualifiers at the Millennium Stadium until this qualifying campaign when the Welsh FA decided to take their games on the road.

But Speed wants Welsh football's home to be in Wales' biggest stadium as he wants his side to be in a position for making it through to a major finals in the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign.

This squad has the potential to qualify but every Welsh manager before me has sat here and said the same thing so I'm under no illusion how tough it will be

Wales manager Gary Speed

"We do want the Millennium Stadium to be a fortress," said Speed. "As if we're going to qualify for anything, we must win our home games.

"So if we can make the Millennium Stadium into a fortress, then it would give us a better chance of qualifying.

"This squad is very exciting. But the team I captained was full of more experienced players with a few youngsters.

"Their average age is 24 and they've got the potential to be together for 10 years.

"This side is inexperienced which is probably better long-term but if you look at some of the players like Ashley Williams, Joe Ledley and Gareth Bale, they have a lot of caps for their age.

"This squad has the potential to qualify but every Welsh manager before me has sat here and said the same thing so I'm under no illusion how tough it will be."

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see also
Injured Bale out of England clash
24 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Jarvis gets first England call-up
20 Mar 11 |  Football
Speed praise for Ramsey character
20 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Terry returns as England captain
20 Mar 11 |  Football
Why Wales hold out Wembley hope
04 Sep 11 |  Welsh
Welsh FA sorry for ticket blunder
02 Mar 11 |  Welsh
Wales' international fixtures
22 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Wales' results 2010
22 Feb 10 |  Welsh
Euro 2012 qualifying tables
07 Sep 11 |  Football
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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