Chris Smalling claims his move to Roma has already exceeded expectations and is delighted to have helped find a missing child.
Smalling surprisingly swapped Manchester United for Roma towards the end of the summer transfer window, and the defender is enjoying working with the ‘brilliant’ Paulo Fonseca.
“Yeah, everything and more I think,” he told the club’s official website when asked if his season-long loan had met expectations.
“Obviously I missed the first couple of games, but being able to stay fit now and hopefully – touch wood – for the rest of the season means I’ve been able to have an influence on the pitch, and that definitely helps the transition, in terms of getting to know my teammates and how we want to work, and just getting friendly with them as well.
“Now my family is out here and we are moving into a house as well, so it’s nice to have all that sorted too. All the pieces off the pitch are coming together too, so fingers crossed it just keeps getting better and better.
“In terms of the facilities and the schedules it is not too dissimilar [to England]. Like at United, here we are playing every few days so training in the week is more tactical and about recovery, rather than long training sessions.
“But in terms of the games, especially watching more Serie A since I’ve been here and studying the opposition, I think compared to England you have a lot more teams who are playing with two central forwards, who are causing you a lot more problems.
“In England quite often you have to deal with just one striker, so you’ve got your other central defender covering you – whereas often here you can be left two-on-two a lot of the time. There’s a lot more runs in behind being made too.
“So it’s definitely new challenges, which I’m enjoying – because I quite like a tussle and a sprint against the striker. It definitely suits my game.
“I’ve been very lucky in terms of the coaching staff as well, they all speak good English. That has been great. And a lot of the players understand it as well – there’s probably at least half of them who have a good understanding.
“But obviously I want to learn Italian, I’m starting on that journey too. But I’ve been very lucky with that – and then everything else, the food, the off-the-pitch assistance with moving houses and everything else, all of it has been first class.”
“I find it’s been brilliant [with Fonseca]. In terms of our first conversation, I spoke to him on the phone from Manchester and he was just explaining the type of defender he wants, how he saw my attributes and how he wanted me to play within his team.
“And that gave me a real sense of things, and as soon as I was off the phone it was a case of, ‘Let’s make this happen’. And since then it has been great to work with him.
“How he wants us to play, aggressive on the front foot, are all things I think fit with my game – and they’ve been very encouraging in terms of showing us clips of what they want us to work on and how we can improve, so I still feel like I’m learning each day. So it’s clicking quite well.”
The Englishman made an impact before he kicked a ball for the Giallorossi as his transfer announcement helped find a missing child.
“That was amazing. Because that’s something that, obviously, even before I knew I was coming to the club I think that was something that even in England we all saw, we all were aware of it.
“Football has this incredible platform and when you use it for something like that it is great. And the results of it, just making people more aware, I think it is an amazing thing.
“Being able to reunite families is a huge, huge thing and hopefully it’s something that we can do more of in football. So it was great just to be a part of that.”
Finally, the 29-year-old was asked about the fight against racism, as a person of mixed race and in light of several incidents to hit Serie A.
“Honestly, on the pitch I have not noticed anything – although I’m still picking up the language! I’ve not experienced it directly, but obviously you do see what’s in the news.
“But I don’t think it is just a problem in Italy, I think we are getting more cases in England too. It seems to be very much a generational thing that I think definitely needs to be clamped down on.
“But I think there is becoming a little bit of a closer bond between players, between football and the government now, because I think there was always a big divide between the two – and we never really had that voice to be able to change things.
“But I think a lot of people are now taking it upon themselves to address things, on social media and in public, and now there are a lot more meetings between governments and football federations.
“I think we are getting closer to the type of sanctions that there need to be, and they need to be harsh.
“But hopefully they can single out the ones that are unwilling to change, and then hopefully the new generation – like my boy, and other younger kids – don’t grow up seeing it and thinking it’s right.”
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