United have signed a 'diamond' in Smalling

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Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is ready to showcase centre-back Chris Smalling for the rest of the campaign after losing the "diamond" unearthed from non-league football less than two years ago.

Manchester United have agreed a fee with Fulham for the 20-year-old and he headed straight to Manchester after the defeat by Tottenham on Tuesday evening, with the defender set to start his Old Trafford career in the summer.

"When it was put to me that I must resign myself to losing the player because Manchester United put in a very good bid that the club have accepted, I was then told the one piece of good news is that he won't be going until the start of next season," Hodgson said.

"Why that was decided, you'd have to ask Manchester United. I think (chief executive) Alistair Mackintosh, when the deal was proposed, wanted that to happen and Manchester United accepted it.

"It's obvious that it's much better but it wasn't assistance from my part."

Hodgson has no problem with fielding Smalling for the rest of the season and the centre-back will be among the likes of Michael Dawson and James Tomkins looking to force their way into the reckoning for England.

Smalling has already impressed during his three under-21 appearances this season and has helped keep clean sheets in the last two matches under coach Stuart Pearce, who reports directly to Fabio Capello and recommends players to the England boss.

Smalling's background includes a grammar-school education, four A levels and being accepted on a business management degree course at Loughborough University before being offered the chance to go full-time into football.

The move to Fulham came in 2008 and the match against Tottenham was only his second Barclays Premier League start, but Hodgson revealed: "We've known we had a diamond in our midst but unfortunately when you are Fulham and you produce a diamond you are aware that diamond can be taken away from you by clubs with more power.

"Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't make mistakes when he identifies a young player. He should take a lot of credit himself for the work he's put in while he's been with us."

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Chris Smalling
Premier League
Manchester United
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