TOM CAIRNEY has revealed how being released by Leeds United at 16 for being too small has acted as a huge inspiration to go on and make it at Hull City.
The teenage midfielder made his Premier League debut as the Tigers were held to a draw by relegation rivals Wolves.
Cairney produced an impressive display alongside George Boateng in the centre of midfield to earn praise from manager Phil Brown and justify the East Yorkshire club's decision to snap up the Nottingham-born midfielder after his release from Elland Road.
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The 19-year-old, who was so highly rated by Leeds as a youngster his family were re-housed in Selby, said: "I was with Leeds from the age of seven until I was 16 but then they released me for being too small.
"The average height of the team must have been 6ft but I was only 5ft 1ins tall.
"Thankfully, Hull came in and acted as a safety net. I proved to be a late developer and shot up in the two years I spent in the youth team here.
"I just needed that time to grow. As a youngster, it can be all about athletes but once everyone catches up it goes on ability and football.
"That knockback has given me a fire in the belly. I just want to keep on playing and prove them wrong."
On Saturday's evidence, United's loss has very much been Hull's gain with Cairney, who celebrated his 19th birthday less than a fortnight ago, looking an accomplished player.
Manager Brown was certainly impressed, saying: "He sees a pass and is aware of what is around him when he has got the ball.
"He has to learn the defensive side of the game when he hasn't got the ball but that will come.
"Tom would have started against Chelsea last month but, unfortunately, the game was postponed.
"I had no doubts about him starting against Wolves. He has leapt ahead of one or two others at the club and maybe surprised one or two people, but not me."
Asked if he saw any similarities between Cairney and Hull's record signing Jimmy Bullard, Brown added: "Jimmy's got a wealth of experience and an attitude towards the game that is boyish. The other one is a boy.
"So, he has obviously got a boyish attitude but passing-wise, yes, I see that as being his forte during his career."
Brown, who also handed new signing Amr Zaki a debut from the bench, confirmed Bullard will not be fit enough to face Chelsea tomorrow night at the KC Stadium. But he remains hopeful the former Fulham and Wigan Athletic midfielder will be available for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday.
On the draw against Wolves, Brown was unhappy with the defending of his side as individual errors cost Hull dear.
However, he insists the Tigers are much better equipped for the relegation battle following the experience of last season when they escaped by one point.
Brown said: "Going into the business end of the season last year, we didn't have any experience at this level. Consequently, it was the unknown.
"Now we know a little bit more about it. I know there's teams down there that are in the same boat. The difference can be who can hold their bottle."