Pearce hails Fulham defender Smalling

England Under-21s manager Stuart Pearce is in no doubt Fulham defender Chris Smalling has a big future.

The 19-year-old is expected to retain his place in central defence against Lithuania in Vilnius tonight having impressed alongside Manchester City's Micah Richards in 1-0 win over Portugal on Saturday, in what was his first start under Pearce.

Smalling joined the Cottagers in June 2008 from non-league Maidstone, and made his debut in their Europa League clash against CSKA Sofia earlier this season.

Pearce accepts with the likes of highly-rated Norway international Brede Hangeland to compete with in Roy Hodgson's back-line, it will be difficult for Smalling to get an extended run in the side.

However, the England Under-21 coach is in no doubt Smalling has what it takes to continue his rapid development.

"Chris has impressed me everyday in training and have been saying for the last two or three matches that I have to get him a game," said Pearce.

"Maybe he was fortunate that James Tomkins was out injured, but he certainly took his chance."

Pearce continued: "Next he has to break into the Fulham side.

"To be fair with Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, they have got two very sturdy central defenders.

"But all the experience we can give him will help him as a player.

"He will improve, there is no doubt in my mind about that, because when you tell him to do things, he takes them on board and does them.

"Chris is a very bright kid, listens and that gives you something to work with."

Pearce has called on his youngsters to put their new-found defensive resilience into action once again tomorrow night.

The young Lions kept on course for a place in the 2011 European Championships with a hard-fought victory over Portugal in blustery conditions at Wembley on Saturday following a first Under-21 goal from Tottenham's Danny Rose.

Pearce's men are now second in Group Nine, three points behind leaders Greece and holding a match in hand, with the eventual winners and four best-runners up automatically qualifying for the finals in Denmark.

The trip to Vilnius will provide another stern test for the young England squad which, like the senior squad, has been hit by a number of withdrawals.

"England teams down the years, going back 20 years to when I started, were all built on clean sheets," said Pearce.

"We feel as though we have got goals in our squad. Now we have to build on being difficult to score against."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable