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Smalling sure England can go all the way

Chris Smalling thinks England can go one better than two years ago and win the U21 crown. "We can go all the way and a lot of the lads feel the same," said the central defender.

Smalling sure England can go all the way
Smalling sure England can go all the way ©uefa.com 1998-2012. All rights reserved.

Chris Smalling is eyeing UEFA European Under-21 Championship glory with England as the perfect seal to the best season of his career.

The centre-back ended the 2010/11 campaign – his first as a Manchester United FC player following a big-money move from Fulham FC – with a Premier League winners' medal and a place on the bench in the UEFA Champions League final.

Next up for the defender, who was taking his first steps as a semi-professional with Maidstone United FC less than four years ago, is the U21 finals in Denmark, where the target for Stuart Pearce's squad is to go one better than in 2009 when England finished runners-up.

"The manager has emphasised that he really wants to go one step further this year and a lot of us players believe [we can], especially as the momentum has increased," Smalling told UEFA.com. "Even though we don't see each other week in, week out, there's a lot of ability and a lot of us just really want to kick on in the summer. We can go all the way and a lot of the lads will feel the same."

The 21-year-old's rise from non-league to international football is, in Smalling's words, "unbelievable". "I remember seeing the finals [in 2009] when I was on holiday, so to be able to play my part now is terrific. When England got to the semis [in 2007] it was more just a case of finishing my A levels at school and then seeing what would be.

"I'd already applied for university, so it was just a case of being able to carry on. Luckily I got my break and I have taken it so far, and now I'm definitely looking forward to some good years ahead."

For now, though, Smalling's focus is on negotiating a section which contains hotly-fancied Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. "In terms of the draw I think our group is definitely the hardest," he added. "Playing Spain in your first game is going to be really tough."

Nevertheless, Smalling regards the spirit in Pearce's squad as something that should stand England in good stead. "Every time we go out onto the training field everybody gets on as if we are a club team," he said. "That's important. In the last four or five [qualifying] games there was a lot of pressure for us to win. That really brought us together and hopefully it will lead to a good summer."