Smalling issues costume apology
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has apologised for making an "ill thought-out and insensitive decision" after a picture emerged of him wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomber costume at a party.
The front page of Thursday's edition of The Sun showed the 24-year-old England international wearing a head dress and items resembling a mock circuit board, mobile phone and cables on his chest. He was also wearing bottles of the liqueur Jagermeister and the energy drink Red Bull.
A blend of the two drinks is known as a 'Jagerbomb' and Smalling's management company on Thursday morning insisted the player's outfit, worn at a private party, had simply been an "attempted comedy play" on the drink.
In a statement, Smalling's management company, the Wasserman Media Group, said: "Chris and his girlfriend hosted a fancy dress party to celebrate Christmas and their belated birthdays with close friends in the assumed privacy of his own home.
"He dressed in a costume consisting of empty bottles of Jagermeister and cans of Red Bull strapped to his chest in an attempted comedy play on the popular 'Jagerbomb drink'.
"Although he fully accepts in hindsight it was an ill thought-out and insensitive decision, absolutely no harm was intended whatsoever and he apologises for any offence caused."
Smalling has, meanwhile, been described as "thoughtless" by a survivor of the July 7 bombings in London.
Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast in 2005, said people should "think twice" before making light of terrorism. She also said that even after eight years, people affected are still coming to terms with the terror attack.
"It does not make it any easier when you see people who make light of it," Putnam said.
"It is silliness really. I do not think people who do these things mean any harm but unfortunately the effect it has on people like me and people who are in a worse position - those who lost loved ones - is hurtful.
"I am sure that he did not mean to offend anyone but I wish people would think twice.
"If people could only think twice about the pain this could cause to people who have lost loved ones in these circumstances it would be appreciated by survivors and the bereaved alike."
Smalling, who began his professional career with Isthmian League Premier Division side Maidstone United, signed for Manchester United from Fulham for an undisclosed fee in January 2010, seeing out the remainder of the season with the Cottagers before completing his transfer in July.
He made just 16 Premier League appearances in his first season at Old Trafford after finding his route to the first team blocked by the centre-half pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
The 24-year-old has on occasion been used at right-back as cover for Rafael, but has had his fair share of injuries, missing a significant part of the last campaign as a result.
The defender has been given more opportunities under new United boss David Moyes this season, having already made 20 appearances.
He made his senior England debut in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria in September 2011 and has gone on to make eight more appearances for the national team.
With six of those caps coming in 2013, Smalling will be hoping, fitness permitting, to earn a place in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad to Brazil.