It’s been a bit of a whirlwind year or so for Chris Smalling.

Plucked from non-league football by Premier League Fulham would an amazing story in it’s own right, had he not gone and capped that by making his debut at the end of last season against Everton. After that came a European debut – when he impressed alongside Chris Baird in Sofia – and he looked similarly commanding against FC Basel at the Cottage in our most recent European outing. Smalling has also made a rapid rise up the international ranks, too, claiming England U19 honours as the national side reached the final of their World Cup and also being capped by Stuart Pearce for the U21s shortly afterwards.

The young man looks a real prospect. We speculated at West Ham that – if Hangeland did go anywhere (as the discussions over his new contract seemed to have been particularly drawn out) – Smalling could come in and continue his encouraging development. He seems to be really enjoying it too, as you might expect.

It’s going really well at the minute. I got off to a good start during pre-season playing a few games and now that I’ve been involved in Europe and on the bench for Premier League games it’s great.

Towards the end of last season I was getting on the bench more often and then to finish the season making my debut helped me come back strong in pre-season. I’ve gone from strength to strength since then. The European games have been a real buzz, playing in front of the big crowds in a big competition has been really good.

It’s a bit different to stepping out for the Reserve Team with just a few hundred in the crowd but playing in front of the big crowds and on TV drives you on. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I’m having a good time. There are going to be a lot of games between now and Christmas so I hope to get involved a bit more.