Had things turned out differently, Clarets defender James Tarkowski could have been turning out for Blackburn Rovers in Wednesday night’s cup derby against Burnley.
But the 24-year-old harbours no grudges after being let go by Rovers – now a 6ft 2 ins centre back – released for being “small and slow”!
Tarkowski went from there to Oldham Athletic, where he moved through the ranks and made his professionbal debut for the Latics, before earning a switch to Brentford.
He returned north for £3m last January, and Tarkowski said: “I was there (at Blackburn), I moved there from Oldham when I was about 11, and was there until under 15s, 14s.
“Strangely enough, I was too small!
“I’ve always had big legs, so I was quite heavy, and small and slow doesn’t get you very far in football, unfortunately!
“I sort of knew what was coming from their side, you get a growth spurt and you grow up, but fortunately I found my way into the game down another path.
“Plenty of lads get released from clubs and find their path somewhere else, but I loved it when I was there as a young lad, but I’m quite pleased with the path I’ve taken so far though.”
Tarkowski understood the decision at the time, though he smiled: “It would (be nice to get one over on them).
“I didn’t hold anything against them for releasing me.
“They’re trying to find the next best player, and at that time, they didn’t believe it was me and I could see why they let me go.
“I knew at that age I wasn’t tall enough or quick enough.
“If you’re not big, you need to be quick, especially at that age, so I don’t hold anything against them.
“I’ve made it in the game so far!
“I actually went there as a striker.
“I was quite big when I joined, so they moved me to the back and then I didn’t grow for two years!
“You’re not tall enough!
“I finished as a centre-half and then ended up back at Oldham with the same coach who took me there when I was very young, so it all worked out well.”
While Tarkowski didn’t make the grade at Rovers, no one else in his year group did either, though – and Rovers had two talented young centre backs in the level above.
He said: “I don’t think we played Burnley as they were a category above with the training ground.
“I don’t think anyone was left from when I was there.
“Phil Jones was the year above me, and Grant Hanley, but no one from my age group even got close I don’t think.”