Smalling aiming to impress
Chris Smalling has his sights set on cementing a spot in the England side as he aims to make up for the injury frustration which checked his progress with both club and country.
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12. Chris Smalling
The Manchester United player made his international breakthrough 18 months ago following back-to-back appearances against Bulgaria and Wales at right back.
The future looked bright for Smalling but he was then sidelined for six months with two separate injuries.
A groin injury suffered in action for United against Swansea in the penultimate game of last season dashed his hopes of being part of Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.
Then Smalling broke a metatarsal after returning to training in July which kept him out of action until November.
But the gloom has lifted with Smalling becoming more established at United and chosen by Hodgson for back to back internationals with Brazil at Wembley and, on Friday in San Marino.
Smalling, speaking ahead of Tuesday's crucial World Cup qualifier in Montenegro, said: "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."
Smalling is conscious of the opportunity to stake a claim to become an England regular especially given the number of centre-backs absent, injured or unavailable.
He said: "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.
"It's also great to have someone who has confidence in you, Alex Ferguson at United and Roy Hodgson with England, and it gives you confidence.
"It gives me a bit of faith to go out there and just play the game."
Smalling does not attempt to play down the importance of Tuesday's game in Montenegro with the current group leaders two points ahead of England.
But the former Fulham player is adamant he will thrive.
He said: "I take each chance that I can get and the bigger the game, the better for me.
"I'll be ready if I'm selected on Tuesday.
"We see their results so we know it's going to be a close one and Tuesday is a massive game.
"Away games like this can be very intimidating and, if you get the crowd onside, it's like they got an extra man.
"So if we stay level headed and try and keep the crowd quiet, then it will be to our advantage.
"This is the big one of the season against a team which is arguably fighting for top spot with us."