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

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.

What did the manager say to you?
He said the club had been watching me for a while and that he saw me as part of the long-term future of the club. He also told me I’d play a few games in pre-season, which I did, and it’s been good to get a few more under my belt since then. I’m learning from some quality players and couldn’t be in a better environment to grow as a player. Hopefully I can take my chances when I get them.

You met your new team-mates early in the year, soon after your transfer was agreed, when United beat Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final; what do you remember about that night?
It was an amazing occasion and a great game to be at. There’s always something special about night games, but to be in a full house at Old Trafford with the fans making so much noise, and to see a game like that was brilliant. The manager took me down to the dressing room afterwards and I met all the players and Sir Bobby Charlton, and everyone was very

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