Thousands of teenagers who attempt to become a professional footballer by going through the academy process face a number of difficult obstacles in their journey to the top.
Perhaps the biggest barrier when it comes to whether you make it or not is size. Are you tall enough to make your presence known in defence? Can you handle yourself in a midfield battle?
These are the questions that face many youngsters face in the modern game but Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominayis a prime example of why a club shouldn’t release a player purely based on their height.
At the beginning of 2015, an 18-year-oldMcTominay was just 5ft 6inches.
As you can see from the above images from aPremier Academy League between Manchester City U18 and Manchester United U18 in 2014, McTominay looks an average size compared to his opponents.
His small stature meant that United’s youth-team coaches naturally had their doubts about whether he would be able to make the grade at the very top-level.
Thankfully though, they kept the talented midfielder on their books and at the end of 2015, McTominay went through a ridiculous growth spurt. In fact, in an 18 month period, he grew an incredible 10 inches in total.
The 24-year-old now stands at an impressive 6ft 4ins.
In an interview with Manchester United’s official website in 2018, the youngster explained his incredible transformation.
“It’s just more of the fact that my body was not ready at all. Warren and Paul McGuinness were really good with me at that time, nurturing me and putting me in and out of training sessions while not giving me so much game time.
“I’m at the height I am now and I want to keep going this season and get as much game time as I possibly can. I always knew I was going to be quite tall but maybe not that tall.
“I think when I was 13 or 14, if I was at another club who weren’t as patient with me as I was smaller and not playing games, I think they might have thought ‘We’ll just get rid of him’.
“I couldn’t fault United when I was growing up and how they treated me. How it’s panned out has obviously been really good.”
From being one of the smallest at the club to easily becoming one of the tallest, the 24-year-old has certainly got a promising future ahead of him after a number of impressive seasons at Old Trafford.
McTominay, who was drafted into the starting line-upback in 2018 by Jose Mourinho, who in-turn decided to drop Paul Pogbafrom the centre of midfield, has gone on to flourish under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Scotland international has scored more that Paul Pogba, Fred and Donny van de Beek combined this season.
Solskjaer knows just how important those goals have been in recent months.
“Scott has really, really developed that part of his game this season.” the Norwegian said after McTominay netted against West Ham on Tuesday.
“Of course we let him go into the box more often, unleash him. You see that he doesn’t mind being in those positions. He’s a very good striker of the ball and a very clinical finisher.
This story is certainly a note to academy’s out there. Don’t release players because they are too small because you never know – they might just grow an extra 10 inches.
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