Chris Smalling may be down the pecking order when it comes to being first choice for Manchester United, but the central defender is well aware of the opportunity to become a permanent fixture for England.
Smalling, who has risen from non-league Maidstone United to Old Trafford within five years, via a spell with Fulham, made his England debut under Fabio Capello in September 2011 against Bulgaria and has picked up five caps so far, including playing in Friday’s 8-0 rout against San Marino.
The Manchester United youngster suffered an injury hit start to the season but is keen to push on for club and country.
Smalling told reporters: "It has been a frustrating season. My season didn't get started until mid November with injuries.
"It was the second last game of the season against Swansea when I felt my groin and it ruled me out of the summer (Euro 2012).
"I came back for pre-season raring and ready to go and then my foot went so I didn't get going until mid November.
"But I've always been ready the last couple of months, I've stayed fit, and just hope to stay fit until the end of the season and keep picking up games.
"It's not been the ideal season. It's not been a great season but I just hope next season I can stay injury fit and play more games.
"I've been feeling good and hopefully I can finish the season strong and have a good pre-season because I didn't have a full one last summer."
While opportunities under Sir Alex Ferguson may remain limited by the presence of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans, Smalling knows now is the time to capitalise on the defensive problems at international level.
He continued by saying: "Am I conscious a position is up for grabs? Definitely.
“There were a few pull-outs for the San Marino game but it gives the people here an opportunity. I definitely see myself as having a chance with the more games I can get. If I can get on a little run, the position is more like your own."
Smalling certainly has the ability to nail down one of the regular central defence slot for England, although not playing regularly in the centre of defence for United won’t do his cause any favours.
If Smalling does get his chance against Montenegro on Tuesday it will be his third consecutive start at the heart of the defence for Roy Hodgson and a good performance in Podgorica will make it difficult for the England manager to leave him out in the future.
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