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Being on the smaller side for a footballer myself, I’ve heard the above quote more times than I care to remember.  “He’s got the skills but can’t pay the bills” is another little gem.  At both professional, and perhaps more worryingly at youth level, teams across the UK are notorious for picking the big lad.

But why is that a problem you may wonder?  Surely a bigger Striker would be able to boss the game more, overpower the opposing defenders and ultimately score more goals?  To a degree you’d probably be right.  Actually, let’s be completely honest here; you definitely are right.  We’ve all seen those absolutely ginormous kids who tower a good couple of feet over everybody else, dads on the side line demanding to see a copy of their passport and even then thinking it’s all part of a conspiracy!  5+ goals a game for those Strikers is considered easy going, it’s almost a foregone conclusion.

However…let’s take a step back to look at the bigger picture for a moment.  What happens one, two or maybe even three years down the line when everybody else has their growth spurt?  Will that big lad who’s been banging in all the goals now be ready for the demands his peers are about to throw at him?  Has he spent those years actually progressing after coasting along at such an ‘easy’ level?  Or maybe, just maybe those previously smaller players who were perhaps deemed inferior might now be schooled so well in how to affect games using the attributes available to them that they’ve come out the other side head and shoulders above the now not quite so big lad.  Even without the growth spurt, I know where the clever money is.  Remember;

Player first, success second

I don’t think the big lad knew much about that at the time but the blame really can’t lie with him, that’s what he was taught after all.  And with youth academies up and down the country still prioritising size over potential, winning over the player, it’s easy to see why so many heads drop.

Of course, big lads have their place in the modern game for sure, at both professional and youth levels.  But so do players of a smaller size, perhaps now more than ever before.  What’s important is to focus on individual player development no matter how big they are as only by doing so will their true potential ever come to fruition.

If only guys such as Pele, Romario, Maradona, Messi and Iniesta were slightly taller eh…

Craig Reid

A small footballer