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Chris Smalling interview (old)

Started by LRCN, January 28, 2010, 09:23:11 PM

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some were asking for it so I'm just putting it up here for linking. exclusive interview with Chris Smalling

From non-league to Wembley in 18 months, what an achievement! Did you think that you would even make it as a professional footballer when you were playing for Maidstone?
I guess you could say it is quite a rise and something that I've always wanted to achieve. When I joined Maidstone I always had hope that I would get a chance and felt confident and its turned out to be a dream, but I'm well aware that there is a lot of hard work hard and I'm relishing the challenge.

When did you start getting into football?
I started when I was at under 8's for my local team Walderslade boys who played just up the road from me.

Who was the first team you supported?
That would be Arsenal and I always enjoyed watching Ian Wright play. I think every defender has the thought of being a striker and wanting to score the goals.

Have you always played as a centre back?
I have at times, when I was younger, play as a centre forward. At Maidstone I played as a centre midfielder at times so I've played a few positions.

You played for Millwall as a schoolboy but you had to leave because it was too far away. Was it a hard decision to make?
It was disappointing, but something that had to be done as I was missing training sessions because of it.

Do you think it had a big impact on your career?
In the end it can be seen as a blessing in disguise as I got to play senior football and have played the other side of the game and it's a useful side of the game to have in my locker.

When did you start playing for Maidstone?
I joined and played in the reserves for a while then played 12-15 games. I had my England school boy that year so I missed quite a few games with that but that was an enjoyable experience.

What was it like playing at semi pro club?
I really enjoyed it at Maidstone. The fans were very good to me and we had a big crowd at our home games which made it a good atmosphere.

Fulham seem to in recent times be looking at non league football, Fulham have signed you, and there are rumours in the last 6 months or so that Fulham almost signed Ben Wright from Hampton and Richmond (who went to Peterborough in the end) and now permanently signed Stefan Payne from Sutton, two young non-league players. Does playing in non league football have any benefits?
Having played that other side of the game I believe its made me mentally and physically stronger as I had to handle some tough forwards. It's something which coming out of an academy cant teach you, as there was an importance on winning the 3 points.

When at Maidstone did you know that bigger clubs were interested in you, what effect did it have on your game, and how did you feel about it?
In January when I was half way through my England schools programme, I got offered to go on trial at clubs and it was a welcoming distraction but I knew that I had to keep my performance levels up with England and Maidstone to ensure that the clubs watching were taking notice of me.

When you joined Fulham what was your first thought, did you have to think about joining a professional footballer or was it a no-brainer?
I was just excited at the prospect of playing football everyday, I always enjoyed playing at school and being able to do it full time was something I was not going to pass up. When I had contract offers I always knew that was what I wanted to do.

What's the biggest difference, apart from being a pro of course, between Fulham and Maidstone?
I think the environment is the biggest difference as the training ground is top class.

How did it feel when you were told you were going to be the reserve captain earlier this year?
That was a great personal achievement, and for the manager to consider myself for the role was an honour.

How has it changed the way you approached games?
It helped my game as players always look towards the captain and I felt that I needed to set an example for others to follow.

Who should we look out for from the reserves that can follow you into the first team squad?
Matthew Saunders is a player to look out for who has done really well in the middle of the park for the reserves, and also Joe Anderson who is an attacking full back.

At the end of last season you made your debut for fulham playing the last 10 minutes or so, that must have been some experience. How did you feel when you finally made a first team appearance?
After all the hard work, to finally play in the premiership was a real buzz. I was really nervous and butterflies, the whole (thing). When I got the last 15 minutes or so was amazing, the roar from the crowd was immense and something which I will never forget.

Young players talk all the time about learning from more experienced players, is this just a cliche or do you actually learn a lot from the older pros?
You can only learn from people who have been there and done it. When I'm training and you see how they approach different situations and how they handle it, is something you cant get from anywhere else.

What's the manager like with younger players like yourself?
The coaching staff have been great and everyone seems to enjoy something in everyday and training. Roy is very approachable when you have a question and treats everyone the same whether they 300 appearances or have 2. I train with the first team all the time.

He revealed that he didn't take up the opportunity to sign Sol Campbell because he didn't want to stunt your development, you must have been flattered by the trust he places in you, or does it add pressure?
Comments like that are very flattering especially as I'm an Arsenal fan who had watched a player of his calibre for many years and this just gives me even more determination to grab this very fortunate position that I'm in with both hands.

This season you've really kicked on, with your first first team start in the Europa League against CSKA Sofia if I recall correctly, what a place to start! How was it for you, did you feel you made a good impression of yourself?
Its been a very enjoyable season so far with a few appearances. It was a very intimidating place to go and I felt I did myself justice. I have played a few games now with Chris Baird and feel that we work well together, he has a lot of experience and it was very easy to play alongside him.

How much does that first team football benefit you, and is going out on loan something you think you would look for? You're also on the bench for every, or most, league games. Is it frustrating knowing you're so close to the first team but you're still not playing?
Nothing beats first team experience and hopefully I can get quite a few more games this season.

You've been called up for England u21s, with 2 starts in a row and alot of praise from a certain Stuart Pearce who like you started off in non league football. How is the experience of playing with some of the best young players in the country, and also knowing that you're one of them?
That's a great bonus, to be able to represent your country is a great honour and something I'll always treasure. There is great hunger in young players and there is always something in which we can work on, and playing with older pros can only benefit a younger player like myself and to the other players who return to their respective clubs. There have been some very talented players through the years at the under 21 level and hopefully I can now play some games at Fulham and keep my place in the under 21 team.

What are your goals for the season, and where would you like to be in 5 years time?
To pick up some more first team starts and to keep my under 21 place when we next meet up. Hopefully in 5 years time I'll be an established premier league player with Fulham and knocking on the door for international honours with the senior team.

If you weren't a footballer what do you think you would have been?
I was going to study business management at Loughbrough university as I had A levels in Business Studies and Economics and that was the side that I wanted to go down. This is a great chance I have now but once I'm settled in the club have spoken to me about doing a course on the side as we do get quite a bit of free time and that is definitely something I will be looking to do.