Erhun Oztumer: Walsall midfielder says his height has become an advantage
Walsall midfielder Erhun Oztumer will have an extra incentive to show Charlton Athletic just what they are missing when he lines up against his boyhood club on Saturday.
Born just around the corner from The Valley in Greenwich, 25-year-old Oztumer was released at the age of 16 by the Addicks for being too small.
But a defiant Oztumer's stance was: "If you're good enough you're tall enough".
"Every day I get told I'm too small," the 5ft 3in Saddlers man told BBC WM.
"I still have to stretch really high in the supermarket to get stuff," quipped the Londoner, who still believes himself capable of reaching football's top shelf, like so many other vertically-challenged famous players before him.
"On the pitch, I've made it an advantage for me," he said. "I've learnt what to do and what not to do and it doesn't bother me any more."
Oztumer's route back to professional football
After his release by Charlton, Oztumer played in Turkey, then with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet, the former home of ex-Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright.
Having scored 28 times in the Ryman Premier, following an unsuccessful trial at Burnley, he then caught the eye sufficiently to be given a contract by Peterborough United boss Darren Ferguson, moving from Dulwich for an undisclosed fee.
But, after scoring seven times in 50 appearances over two seasons with Posh, he has now doubled that tally this season following last summer's move to Walsall.
His tally of 14 is currently bettered only by four players, all strikers - Sheffield United's Billy Sharp (26), Bury's James Vaughan (20), Scunthorpe's Josh Morris (19) and 16-goal Matty Taylor, who moved from Bristol Rovers to Championship rivals Bristol City in January.
Only two of those 14 have been penalties, although another was a freakish injury-time effort against his old club Peterborough which went in straight from a corner.
"I feel I've progressed a lot this year," he said. "I was at Charlton for nine years to the age of 16, then didn't get offered a scholarship. But, at the time, they were a Premier League side with a very good academy.
"When you get released at that age, you think is it over for me? Am I going to be a professional? I dropped into non-league but I've worked my way back up, it's been a learning curve and I think I'm better for it."
And he says the only reason that he has one eye on winning on Saturday is to help League One play-off hopefuls Walsall match their superb recent home form by earning a first away win since Boxing Day.
"It's not personal," he said. "It'll just be nice to go back home as I live only five minutes from the ground and can see my family over the weekend.
"But there's still 30 points on the table for us. If want to reach our targets, we need to win more away games."
Told they were too small too . . .
- Kevin Keegan - Rejected by home-town Doncaster, then top flight side Coventry City, rescued by Scunthorpe before Liverpool's Bill Shankly took a gamble on the future twice European footballer of the year.
- Lionel Messi - Had to undergo growth hormone deficiency treatment from the age of 11 before he could be considered for a career in professional football. Still only 5ft 7ins, but a footballing colossus.
- Riyad Mahrez - Last season's PFA player of the year was constantly overlooked for being too small as a teenager growing up in France, before finding his feet with Leicester City.
- Roy Keane - Prior to his move from Irish side Cobh Ramblers to Nottingham Forest, 1999-2000 dual Footballer of the Year Roy Keane was turned down by Brighton following a trial, for being too small.
- Shane Williams - The Wales and Lions star international winger had to resort to playing football in his early days having been told that he was too small to play rugby.
Erhun Oztumer was talking to BBC WM's Rob Gurney