Clean sheet pleases Smalling
Monday, 16 November, 2009
England defender Chris Smalling was happy with a clean sheet on his full debut
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To watch the full interview with Chris Smalling, click on the player on the right of the page.
To earn your first start at Wembley would be a dream for any England player. Add to that a clean sheet and three points and it’s a very special day all round.
For Under-21s defender Chris Smalling that’s what happened on Saturday when he and his team mates beat Portugal in front of 33,000 fans in their latest Euro 2011 Group Nine Qualifier.
Smalling, who won his first cap for Stuart Pearce’s side in the August friendly away in Holland, has been in every squad this season but was still waiting for his first start. Then on Saturday, in the pouring rain, he was given the nod to start alongside captain Micah Richards in the heart of England’s defence.
And after Danny Rose had put the Three Lions in front just before half-time, England held firm to take all three points and move them nearer to group leaders Greece. And it was a welcome clean sheet for Smalling, who has seen England concede five goals in their opening three qualifiers.
“t was brilliant,” he told TheFA.com, “and to keep a clean sheet too because the manager put a big emphasis on that at the start of the game. It was a great occasion.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals, but unfortunately conceded a few, so to keep that clean sheet was good and we always looked like we were threatening to score. But to keep it at 1-0 was a great result.”
Smalling has made three first team appearances for his club this season and his performance against Portugal will certainly help him add to that and his international tally. Before the game at Wembley, though, he did admit to being slightly nervous, but had an experienced head next to him to help him through the early stages.
“A few butterflies started to appear in my stomach but once I had a few touches I felt comfortable, especially playing alongside Micah there was plenty of experience there.
“He’s always there to talk to and I think we’ve helped each other. It’s always been there in training and it’s great to put it out in a real 90 minutes.”
He continued: “It wasn’t the greatest weather , but while we’ve been training all week it’s been like that so I think we’ve adjusted to the weather conditions. I think it makes you concentrate that bit more, with the slippery ball.”
Now the defender, who turns 20 on Sunday, hopes to be in the side that takes on Lithuania in their last outing of 2009 on Tuesday night.
The team have arrived in the capital Vilnius ahead of their Group Nine encounter, and Smalling knows that a win will edge them further to qualification and keep them hot on the heels of Greece, who they face at home in March.
“We’ll have a look at some of their videos and get our recovery but we’ll be more than focused to put in another performance on Tuesday,” he said.
“We’re unbeaten, if we can get the six points from this get together we’ll be in a good position.”
The match at FK Vetra in Vilnius kicks off at 4pm (GMT) on Tuesday afternoon and we’ll keep you up to date with all the latest.