Smalling stunned by non-league rise to Premier League

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Chris Smalling is struggling to come to terms with the meteoric rise which has seen him go from non-league footballer to Fulham's hottest prospect in 18 months.

Defender Smalling made his first Barclays Premier League start against Chelsea last week and helped Fulham keep a clean sheet in their FA Cup win over Swindon on Saturday in the absence of injured centre back Brede Hangeland.

Back in the summer of 2008 Smalling was playing for Isthmian Premier League side Maidstone United following his release from Millwall, and he said: "It has been one of those sorts of stories, a meteoric rise.

I was unfortunate at Millwall but settled in at Maidstone and then got my chance here and hopefully I can go from strength to strength."

Smalling attributes his rise to Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson, who signed a new 12-month rolling contract last week.

"I have really enjoyed the games I've played in and it's great when you have got a manager of the calibre of Roy showing faith in you while Brede has been struggling," he added.

"Brede's treatment is going well but hopefully I'll be ready if I have to play the next game."

Hodgson is likely to hand Andy Johnson only his second start since October against Stoke on Tuesday after he came through Saturday's game without any recurrence of a groin injury.

He will be partnered by Bobby Zamora, who picked up his 11th of the season against Danny Wilson's Swindon side.

Hodgson believes the in-form striker, who has been touted for a shock call-up to England's World Cup squad, is on course to reach his target of 20 goals for the first time since he burst onto the scene at Brighton 10 years ago.

"Eleven is good for Bobby and if we can get him onto 20 goals this year then that will be fantastic," said Hodgson. "The way that he is going at the moment, he's well on target for that."

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Chris Smalling
Premier League

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