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PLAY OR PAY; Fab warning for Johnson & Co.

Byline: Steve Bates

FABIO CAPELLO has warned Adam Johnson his Manchester City career must take off quickly if he is to spearhead England's Euro 2012 challenge.

The England boss has identified City's new pounds 7million winger as one of the main young Under-21 stars who could emerge in the next two years and force his way into the senior side during the 2012 qualifying campaign which starts in September.

The England boss is in Poland for today's qualifying draw in Warsaw.

And he's already turning his attention to the young breed of players who will eventually replace established stars like David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who are in their 30s.

Capello has been encouraged by the strenght of young talent coming through but he'll apply the same mantra which he operates for his main stars: If you are not playing regular club football, forget it.

And that's why he'll be closely watching Johnson's progress at Eastlands - and hoping the 22-year-old's career doesn't come to a shuddering halt after his deadline-day move from Middlesbrough.

Capello revealed: "I watch a lot of Under-21 games because in the Premier League and the Championship I have seen a lot of good young players who are interesting for me.

"Players like Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, for the 2012 Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson have been improving.

"I like Johnson because he has a lot of quality.

"You have seen what has happened to Joe Hart at Birmingham. He has improved a lot because he plays.

"He makes fewer mistakes because he has more confidence and that has come from playing regularly. The same has happened with Johnson. Before there was Stewart Downing at Middlesbrough and Johnson's chances were limited. Downing left for Aston Villa and Johnson had his chance.

"It was important for Johnson to play and being in the Championship has been good for his development because he was playing all the time," explained Capello.

"He can play better now because he was the best player in the Championship. Sometimes it is good for young players to play in the Championship all the time rather than in the Premier League only now and then.

"I hope Johnson will be able to continue his development at Manchester City by playing.

"That's why I am pleased Wilshere has gone out on loan at Bolton because for a young player like him it will help him mature and develop.

"But Gibbs and Theo Walcott are not playing regularly for Arsenal.

"My experience teaches me that young players can improve a lot in two years. There are players who can step up in the next two years and come into the senior team for the Euros in 2012.

"We have talent and that makes the difference because without quality it is impossible to go forward and improve.

"Some people blame foreign players for stopping English players not develop


STAY ON THE BALL Adam Johnson has moved from Boro to Man City YOUNG LIONS: But (from left) Wilshere, Gibbs and Rodwell must earn their right to a place at Euro 2012
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 7, 2010
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