Smalling stands tall in defence

Chris Smalling (centre) after scoring the only goal in England's recent friendly win against Portugal at Wembley

Chris Smalling (centre) after scoring the only goal in England's recent friendly win against Portugal at Wembley

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Chris Smalling is not only looking forward to the challenge of making Euro 2016 a success but confounding those doubting England’s defensive capabilities.

Not so long ago Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry were the kind of players at the Three Lions’ disposal – options Roy Hodgson would no doubt love to have in France.

The England boss has decided to take just three out-and-out centre-backs to the European Championship and a number of former internationals have suggested the defence could prove their undoing this summer.

Such comments have been given understandably short shrift by Smalling, even if they do provide some extra motivation.

“I think if anything it just gives you another challenge to just to prove people wrong,” he said ahead of Saturday’s 
Group B opener against Russia.

“There are always doubts, whether it’s with England or whether it’s with your club form.

“I think it’s just a time to stand up and be counted, and show everyone that you’re good enough – more than good enough – to do that job.”

Individual errors in the warm-up friendlies against Turkey and Australia highlighted that issues still needed ironing out, although Smalling pointed to the nation’s long-standing qualities of being “tactically aware and solid”.

The 26-year-old does not see England’s lack of a left-sided central defender as a problem – “at the end of the day we are centre-backs and we are there to defend” – and is looking forward to pressing home that point in Marseille.

Smalling is a shoo-in for the starting line-up against Russia off the back of his best-ever season at Manchester United.

“It was one that was very consistent,” he said of a fine campaign individually.

“I always knew that if I could stay injury-free and just start the season very well, and get a good run, that I always could produce consistent performances.

“It’s nice to have done it over the last 18 months but it is about continuing it now, do it for many years to be considered a very good c
entre-back.

“There are the ones like Rio who have done it for year after year after year, not just one year and then having a blip the next year.”