EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

15/11/2010 14:06, Report by Gemma Thompson
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Smalling: My rise to United

the England Schoolboys Under-18 squad. I’d heard a few clubs were watching me, and I went on trial for a week at Middlesbrough before going to train at Fulham for a couple of days. I played in a practice game and straight afterwards Roy Hodgson said that the club would like to sign me.

Had a part of you given up making it at the top level prior to that?
I always hoped I’d get an opportunity and, in a way, I had nothing to lose at that trial because I was all set to go to university if it didn’t work out. I’d done my A-levels and had applied to Loughborough to study Business Management with Economics. It was nice to have the back-up of the uni option, and it’s something I’ll probably pick up later in my career because we have a lot of free time and it would be nice to do the degree.

We’re guessing a typical day as a non-league player is very different to that as a Red…
[Laughs] Yes definitely! When I was at Maidstone I would have got up about 8.30am every day for school. We trained on Tuesdays or Thursdays in preparation for the weekend match and sometimes had a midweek game. I also had a part-time job at a hotel in the evenings so it was a busy time. It’s strange to have gone from that to being a United player and having a lot of free time on my hands because rest is so important. You train intensely for maybe an hour-and-a-half a day, and you’ve also got your gym work. But when you’re not training, much of the time is spent resting.

When did you first hear that United were interested in you?
It came really out of the blue and everything happened very quickly. I was on my way to Blackburn with Fulham and Roy Hodgson said to me that Sir Alex was coming to our hotel to see me later that night. I was really nervous beforehand, but we had a good chat. I remember sitting there afterwards just trying to take everything in – the whole thing was a real shock, but a great surprise.

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