Chris Smalling admits meteoric rise has hit him hard as he prepares for Fulham goodbye

10 May 2010 09:26
Fulham defender Chris Smalling admits he is struggling to come to terms with the meteoric rise which has seen him go from non-league footballer to Europa League finalist within two years.

Smalling, along with his Fulham team-mates, will depart for Hamburg on Tuesday looking to upset the odds by beating Spanish side Atletico Madrid to lift the first major trophy in the club's 131-year history.

Smalling's impressive performances during the opening stages of the campaign caught the eye of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who moved to sign the defender in a £10million transfer in January.

Flying high: Chris Smalling (left) is preparing for his final Fulham appearance

It is all a world away from where the 20-year-old was two years ago when he was turning out for Isthmian League side Maidstone United.

'If you would have told me that I'd be in a European final back when I was at Maidstone then I wouldn't have believed you,' the England Under-21 defender said.

up for grabs: Smalling is desperate to get the nod for Fulham's Europa League final

'This is the sort of thing that I used to dream of when I went to bed at night back then. This has been a great journey for us. We just have to kick on now and come away with a winners medal.'

Smalling will join United on a four-year deal in the summer but he must first focus on edging Aaron Hughes or Brede Hangeland out of Roy Hodgson's starting XI for Wednesday's clash against Spanish giants Atletico, who include the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan among their ranks.

Having disposed of the likes of Juventus and holders ShakhtarDonetsk to make the final, Smalling believes he and his team-matesshould fear nothing from their opponents.

He said: 'Atleticohave been regulars in the Champions League over the lastfew years andthey have been up there in the top half of the Spanish league, but Ithink some of the teams that we have knocked out have been very muchelite in their own countries so we have no fear.

'The management have put that belief into us that whoever we play and whoever is in our path we can get past them.'

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Source: Daily_Mail