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Chris Smalling England Call Up

Promo picThe Rise And Rise of Chris Smalling

At the beginning of last season (2007-2008), Chris Smalling was playing for Maidstone United's youth team in the Ryman Youth League. The tall and talented central defender shone amongst his peer group and both he and his club Maidstone United were delighted at his progression to the first team where he made 11 Ryman League Premier Division appearances and 7 England Schoolboy appearances including a game at Wembley Stadium against Scotland.

Chris made the jump from youth to senior football seamlessly and in his first half a dozen or so games he was voted as Man of the Match by The Stones' supporters on four occasions. By the time that Chris had scored his first (and sadly only) goal for Maidstone in a 4-2 win away to East Thurrock United, it was apparent that a vast array of Football League scouts had noticed his ability.

With strong intrest from Premier Division Middlesbrough and attempts to entice Chris to both Charlton Athletic and Gillingham, Chris opted to sign for Roy Hodgson's Fulham on June 1st 2008. At one point it seemed a certainty that Chris would sign on for Gareth Southgate at The Riverside but despite being extensively "wined and dined" in the north-east he decided that it would be in his own personal and professional interests to join Fulham.

Chris was soon listed as a First Team "Develoment Squad" player and had early run outs in pre-season fixtures at some familiar grounds (eg Wheatsheaf Park, Staines!) Staff at Maidstone United were delighted to hear that by November 2008 that Chris had been made Captain of Fulham Reserves and press reports indicated that he was in excellent form against Tottenham Hotspur as he captained a side including Hungarian International Captain Zoltan Gera!

By January of this year Chris had began to travel with the Fulham first team and was an unused squad member at Villa Park. Fulham's much praised defensive unit had barely been changed by Roy Hodgson this season, as The Cottagers' good disciplinary record and lack of injuries to defensive players ensured that minimal change was required. However, Fulham were drawn away to Manchester United in the FA Cup and for once defensive unavailabilities meant that changes were needed. Chris Smalling was named as one of the seven permitted substitutes at The Theatre Of Dreams. Despite Roy Hodgson giving two youngsters their debuts that evening Chris did not manage to see any playing time.

With staff and supporters alike at Maidstone United following his progress intently, the news that was received this week was entirely unexpected. The England Under-20 squad to face Italy at Loftus Road was named and Chris Smalling was in the squad despite not yet having made his full Fulham debut!

Also in the England squad are a few players who have already made their mark in the Premier League. Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Freddie Sears (West Ham United), Daniel Sturridge (Manchester City), Andy Carroll (Newcastle United) and Scott Sinclair (Chelsea) are all included for the game to be played on Tuesday 31st March.

With the England game being in London hopes of Maidstone United followers seeing Chris Smalling make his England debut were cruelly dashed with the realisation that on the same evening Maidstone United host AFC Hornchurch in the Ryman League Premier Division, whilst cruelly for Youth Team manager Tony Cornwell, the Under-18's are also in Ryman League action away to Horsham!

So next time you see a talented youngster in Ryman League action, you never know, it could be a potential future England international!

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