Smalling dismisses talk of England injury scare

Date published: Wednesday 8th June 2016 3:47

Chris Smalling England

Chris Smalling insists there are no concerns over his fitness for England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia.

The Manchester United defender left Tuesday’s training session with an ice pack around his left knee but the Football Association’s medical team were not worried and he will continue to work with the group as normal ahead of Saturday’s Group B opener in Marseilles.

There was no sign of a bandage as he reported for media duty in Chantilly on Wednesday, with an afternoon workout at the side’s Stade de Bourgognes base planned for later in the afternoon.

“There’s no injury scare there, it’s normal,” said the 26-year-old.

“I often ice different parts of my body or jump in an ice bath. It’s just normal recovery process to be ready for the next day, no worries there.”

That will be music to the ears of manager Roy Hodgson, who gambled by taking just seven defenders and three centre-halves to France.

Left-back Ryan Bertrand has already missed several days of training with an unspecified knock, while centre-half Gary Cahill required painkilling injections on a hip injury before leaving England.

England would, therefore, be forgiven for treating Smalling and company with kid gloves but he is happy with the make-up of the squad.

“We’ve got a couple of other people who can play centre back so I don’t think it’s a position that’s necessarily a worry.

“I think we’re very well covered in all positions.”

Having cleared up any concerns over his knee, Smalling faced a series of light-hearted questions about England’s new mascot – a stuffed lion who reportedly goes by the name of Leo.

The toy first appeared at Smalling’s side before last week’s Wembley friendly against Portugal.

Smalling scored the late winner in that match and has since been seen with his feline friend when the squad departed Luton Airport, in team photos and on arrival at their £500-a-night Chantilly hotel.

He suggested he may pass on custody soon but, like Daniel Sturridge and Kyle Walker before him, steadfastly refused to divulge any details about its significance.

“You’ll see a few different players with it over the course of the tournament. That’s all I’m going to say,” he offered.

“I’m still with it but possibly in a couple of days you’ll see someone new with it.

“That’s up to the players to see over the next couple of days. Joe Hart is up here (talking to the press) tomorrow, so you can get a bit more out of him.”

Eventually, Smalling was moved to suggest there had been “enough questions about the lion” a sign, perhaps, of the lack of drama surrounding Hodgson’s squad at this stage.

There are clearly questions to answer over formation and personnel after a disjointed display against 10-man Portugal in their final warm-up, and they were hardly settled by newspaper pictures of player groupings in Ray Lewington’s notebook on Tuesday.

But the feeling around the squad is one of unity and calm. The pressure will be on when their tournament kicks off at the Stade Velodrome, but it is not weighing heavy at present.

“We’re all of the mindset that this is our chance. It’s time to seize it,” said Smalling.

“There are quite a few players who have not been in France or at a major tournament before and I think it’s a case of enjoying the time we are together.

“We have lots of things to do in the afternoon, be it games or just playing off each other, just enjoying the moment because not many people get the chance to come to major tournaments.

“The facilities are brilliant where we are now, so it’s just about enjoying it and taking that out on the pitch.

“Each day it gets closer and closer, that build up of excitement, it’s just drawing near.

“When you join up you think you’ve got quite a few days until the game but it does creep up on you and it’s that excitement.

“When you start to get those nerves creeping in and start to do a few more meetings on the way Russia play etc, then we’ll be fully ready.”

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