Chris Smalling is part of a new generation that's emerging, not just at Manchester United but also for England. The young defender has had a meteoric rise in the game, and this week he sat down with SoccerBible to tell us what it's like going from Maidstone United to Manchester United in the space of just three years...
SoccerBible: What's it like coming from the lower divisions to the starting line-up of Manchester United?
Chris Smalling: It's a dream come true, to be able to contribute to one of the world's best teams is most definitely something I have to pinch myself about.
SB: When you were playing at Maidstone, were you a stand-out player or were there players there better than you?
CS: Maybe yes, I was just breaking through at that time and I was still at school, and there was a lot of players who'd played higher level and dropped down. But I think in terms of learning more, they had a lot of experience which made it a lot easier for me playing alongside them.
SoccerBible: Did those players tell you you could make it, and help guide you?
CS: Yes definitely. There was a guy called Lee Shearer who'd played a lot higher in the
football ladder, he had a lot of faith in me in terms of helping me and giving me confidence. I was a young lad playing in a men's division, so I needed that sort of guidance, which hopefully I can get from more players like Vida and Rio.
SB: Speaking of Vidic and Ferdinand, who would you liken your style of play to more?
CS: I'm not too sure which one. I'd like to be able to play out of the back, and I also think for any centre-back you need to have that solid edge about you, like Vida is no compromise when he comes up against strikers. So if I can pick up two of those main bits from those two players hopefully I'll be on the way. But they're two great players to be able to learn from.
SB: Pre-match then, what tracks are you listening to?
CS: I've been getting into a bit of Rhymes Cartel, and then just maybe some R'n'B with Jay-Z or Eminem. But I like to keep it pretty much chilled and relaxed before a game.
SB: You save it for the pitch?
CS: Yeah, and obviously when we're in the changing room it's Patrice who's often in charge of the iPod. But he does do a bit of variety to keep everyone happy.
SB: On the pitch then, what's the story behind the white socks you wear?
CS: It's because at training we just wear those socks, so I'm used to them from Monday to Friday so I'd rather not change completely
come match day. I just wear the white socks and cut half off the black ones, they're just a standard Nike sock we wear every day, that you'll have seen on the training fields. I wear them for comfort, if I can keep the same socks and the same boots it's more comfortable.
SB: Your Manchester United ambitions for the season?
CS: Obviously last year was very successful, in terms of us winning and being able to contribute. This year is about hopefully playing more games than last year and picking up a couple more medals, that would be a win-win. But hopefully just to play more games than last year.
SB: Any thoughts about England?
CS: I've not thought about that too much to be honest. If I can start to cement my place here then being selected for England would be a lot easier, but if I keep contributing here hopefully the honours will come.
SoccerBible met Chris Smalling at the recent Manchester United Megastore Event, Smalling was at Old Trafford along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and Patrice Evra. You can see all the behind-the-scenes action from the event by clicking here.