Fulham chiefs heap praise on United bound 'diamond' defender Smalling

27 January 2010 06:12
On the ball: Smalling has made nine first-team appearances for Fulham

Fulham captain Danny Murphy has tipped Manchester United-bound defender Chris Smalling to emulate the achievements of Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard, both of whom Murphy watched develop while on Merseyside.

The former Liverpool man doesn't believe Smalling is at the level of England legends Owen and Gerrard just yet but, given time and his new surroundings, Murphy is adamant stardom awaits.

He said: 'I was fortunate enough to see players like Owen and  Gerrard when they were young lads. Being a defender, Chris is different, and he is not quite on their level yet, but he is potentially a wonderful player.

'He has great pace is calm on the ball and good in the air. What moredo you need from a good centre-half? He'll be a great asset to his newclub, and he won't look out of place.

'It has been a big few days for him, but he's handled it brilliantly.'

Tuesday night's defeat at White Hart Lane, where Smalling was perhaps culpable for losing track of scorer Peter Crouch for the opening goal, was only the 20-year-old's ninth first-team appearance since moving to west London from non-League Maidstone United.

The youngster was expected to undergo a medical in Manchester on Wednesday after United boss Sir Alex Ferguson moved quickly to secure the his signature in the face of stiff competition.

United reportedly pipped Arsenal to the capture of Smalling with Fulham said to favour the decision of the Champions to lend the player back to Craven Cottage.

Soaring up the table: Smalling is expected to be loaned back to Fulham before permanently becoming and United player in the summer

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was equally full of praise for the player he plucked from non-League obscurity just two years ago.

'We've known we had a diamond in our midst but unfortunately when you are Fulham and you produce a diamond you are aware that diamond can be taken away from you by clubs with more power,' he said.

'Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't make mistakes when he identifies a young player. He pays a lot of money for that player because in years to come he realises it will look very cheap. You'd expect the player to be of that quality.

'We thought he had great potential. He should take a lot of credit himself for the work he's put in while he's been with us.

'He has improved his game in that time, he's a good learner and learnt from the players around him - he's certainly a better player than when we took him from the non-league.

'We recognised his ability. I don't know who it was who scouted him to the club, he was introduced to me as a player we should take on board and I was happy to do so.

'It didn't take long for me to realise in training that he had something special. We've had him in the first-team squad ever since.' 

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Source: Daily_Mail