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?
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn