Chris Smalling insists he’s ready for the challenges that come with being a Manchester United player, and the youngster won’t be taking anything for granted while he enjoys some career-best performances at Old Trafford.
Smalling moved to United last summer from Fulham for a reported £10 million fee, and hasn’t looked back since. The defender is now a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting line-up, and is showing his worth in every match he features in.
And after United underwent a demoralising 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, Smalling says he fully understands that his career will see ups and downs, and it’s how he handles the downs that matter.
“Everybody’s career is not plain sailing,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“I have been very much enjoying how it has gone over the last couple of years and hopefully it will stay on course. But I will be ready if there is a setback and I will work hard.”
Smalling revealed that he faced setbacks in his school days that saw the 21-year-old worry that he might never play professional football.
“When I was younger I stopped playing for a professional club after being at Millwall’s Academy. I was at school and I thought the chance in the pro game might not come again,” he explained.
“But I was always going to give it a go and keep at it and worked hard. I never gave up and the reminder of that will always help me in the future. That will be the same response if I get a setback in the professional game. I learned from that.
“You cannot take anything for granted.”
Now, years on, Smalling has had his first berth for the England national side and looks likely to be selected for the Euro 2012 tournament, not to mention the Olympics.
And while Ferguson has played down the idea of any of United's key players attending the 2012 Olympics, Smalling says he’d jump at the chance to play for a gold medal in London.
“I have to say that England is not my first target at the moment and neither are the Olympics. United is what I am thinking about,” he said.
“But towards the end of the season I will be looking towards that and hopefully I might get into the England squad. Obviously I’d love to go there.
“There is also the Olympics as well. A lot of the lads who went to the Under-21 Championships last summer will be able to play in it. Whether it is the Euros, the Olympics, or both – you would like to be involved because these opportunities do not come around too often.”