Leeds United fans may look at the meteoric ascent of Tom Cairney and wonder why he was not given an opportunity at Elland Road.
The fact that current Fulham captain and Premier League player Tom Cairney once played for the Whites might surprise some. But, he’s struggled to have much of an impact with one assist to his name at this moment in time.
Like with so many prospects who pass through the trials and challenges of the English youth system, Cairney was released by his club aged just 16 because was considered too small – that archaic form of measurement which still plagues our game, despite the success of some of the best players in the world.
“To be honest it crushed me, it crushed me a lot, I was with Leeds from I was seven to 16 so it was a big part of my life,” he said recalled years later to the Lancashire Telegraph.
“I was going there three-four times a week, missing days of schools, and obviously my mum and dad had put a lot into it too. So getting released at 16, it just felt like, ‘oh no, after all that effort’. But I was determined I would not stop there. I went to Hull and they offered me a YTS as they obviously saw something. And from 16–18 I shot up in height and then it went back to my footballing ability.”
Leeds United have struggled in the forward positions of late, solely relying on the likes of Pablo Hernandez, who is ironically one of the smallest players on the team, to create the bulk of their opportunities, and we dare say Cairney would have been incredibly useful if he remained at Elland Road.
As it is, the Scotland international continued his career elsewhere, first developing at Hull City before spending a year at Blackburn and later moving onto Fulham, where he has excelled and scored the goal that earned them promotion.
It is that kind of guile, and ability to stand up in the big games, which Leeds desperately need heading into their most important period of football in the previous 15 years.
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