Chris Smalling looking forward to his Fulham return
Chris Smalling has admitted he owes a huge debt of gratitude.to Fulham.
Smalling will return to Craven Cottage with Manchester United on Sunday less than two months after joining the Old Trafford outfit.
It says much for the respect Sir Alex Ferguson had for Roy Hodgson's regime that he allowed Smalling to remain with Fulham for the remainder of last season, even though the £7million transfer was completed in time for him to move during the January transfer window. The benefits of life under Hodgson's command are not lost on the 21-year-old either, so while his old boss is no longer around, there are a few people he wants to catch up with.
“I owe Fulham a lot,” said Smalling. “They gave me my chance.
“When I finished school they gave me the chance to develop. I was in the reserves and then broke into the first-team squad last year.
“I made a lot of friends there, a lot of coaches who helped me are still there.
“Billy McKinley gave me a lot of support over the last couple of years and he deserves a lot of credit.
“It will be a bit weird going back but I hope it will be an enjoyable day,” he added.
At a time when Sir Alex Ferguson is decrying the “kamikaze” spending within the Premier League, the capture of Smalling definitely came with an eye on the future.
The Greenwich-born player is behind Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evens in the central defensive pecking order, where he also faces challenges from Wes Brown and John O'Shea for the opportunities that do become available.
However, rather than worry about becoming another Englishman whose route into the top flight is blocked, Smalling believes the lessons he will learn over the next few years are going to be invaluable.
“When you go out on the training field there are a bunch of players who have played the game to the highest level and that spurs you on,” he said.
“Nemanja and Rio have a very solid relationship and then there is Wes and Jonny.
“You have to work hard every day and take that opportunity when it comes along.”