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.
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
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
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