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Chris Smalling and a dash of Cup romance

last updated Monday 04th January 2010, 10:13 AM
Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling
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Chris Smalling
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Fulham's home tie against Swindon in the FA Cup threw up a chance to dwell on a human interest story, one of those heart-warming tales that are always the backbone of the third round of the FA Cup.

For once, though, the dash of romance was to be found at the Barclays Premier League club.

Fulham defender Chris Smalling is struggling to come to terms with his meteoric rise.

The 20-year-old has gone from non-league footballer to Fulham's hottest prospect in 18 months after a string of impressive performances.

The centre-back made his first Barclays Premier League start against Chelsea last week, and was highly unlucky to score an own goal as Fulham went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat.

In the post-match interview, Smalling was not too downbeat about the incident, realising how far he has come in just a few months.

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He has put in a series of impressive Europa League performances which have caught the eye of England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce, who handed him his first cap in August.

Back in the summer of 2008 Smalling was on the verge of going to Loughborough University while playing for Isthmian Premier League side Maidstone United after being released by Millwall.

And the commanding centre-half, who helped Fulham keep a clean sheet in their FA Cup win over Swindon on Saturday in the absence of injured centre back Brede Hangeland,finds it hard to believe that he has come so far so quickly.

"It has been one of those sorts of stories, a meteoric rise," the 20-year-old said.

"I was unfortunate at Millwall but settled in at Maidstone and then got my chance here and hopefully I can go from strength to strength."

Smalling attributes his rise to Cottagers manager Roy Hodgson, who signed a new 12-month rolling contract last week.

"I have really enjoyed the games I've played in and it's great when you have got a manager of the calibre of Roy showing faith in you while Brede (Hangeland) has been struggling," he added.

"Brede's treatment is going well but hopefully I'll be ready if I have to play the next game [Stoke away on Tuesday]."

















































































Source Alyson Rudd at The Times
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