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Smalling: U21s in promising position
Published : 11 Oct 2010 08:28:00
Chris Smalling feels England Under-21s have given themselves a solid base from which they can progress to next summer's European Championships. England will be looking to overcome Romania at the Municipal Stadium in Botosani on Tuesday. On Sunday, Stuart Pearce saw his travelling squad reduced to 19 players after winger Marc Albrighton returned to Aston Villa for treatment on a minor groin complaint, while Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere had joined up with the senior squad ahead of their Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley. Manchester United centre-back Smalling scored his first goal for the Young Lions, which secured a slender 2-1 lead to defend from the first leg at a capacity Carrow Road on Friday night. The 20-year-old believes Pearce's youngsters have what it takes to get another positive result against a well-organised Romania side, who had topped their qualifying group. "We are only halfway through what is hopefully going to be that road to Denmark," Smalling said. "They haven't conceded many goals lately, but we haven't either. "I have played alongside Micah (Richards) for a few of the games and Jonah [Phil Jones] has come in and done really well. "That was the first time we have conceded a goal since we have been playing together, and it was a bit fortunate too. "But hopefully we can get that solid base going again and keep a clean sheet in Romania." Smalling continued: "In the last four or five games the team has really come together and the manager has stressed that. "We have bonded well and stayed consistent. "Hopefully that will pull us together as we're all striving for that end goal. "A lot of us are trying to progress into our clubs, but playing in a pressure game like these is definitely going to stand us in good stead and hopefully we can play in that tournament in the summer, because that will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of us young lads." Smalling has certainly come a long way in a short time, having been scouted from non-league Maidstone by Fulham just two years ago before then landing a dream £10million move to Old Trafford. He moved north during the summer and played in the Community Shield at Wembley as well as the Champions League match against Rangers. The 20-year-old feels there is no better place to be as he learns from the likes of England senior captain Rio Ferdinand. "The stature of the guy is something to look up to and he has been a real joy to be alongside," Smalling said. "Rio has built up that presence over the years. He is just very commanding. "On the ball, he just gives you that composure. "Whether he puts on that captain's armband or it is just in training, he is leading the team. "I have had to pick up along the same way, because I am the eyes of the central midfielders and that is something I have been working on, and he has been helping me. "Rio is great to play with, so is [Nemanja] Vidic, so I cannot be in a better atmosphere to be learning my trade."