Date: 18th April 2010 at 9:43am
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Newcastle United rejected former Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson as a trainee at the age of 12, and is now attempting to remember why it was so.

Johnson has been outstanding for Manchester City since signing for them in the January transfer window, and is now thought to have an outside chance of making it into Fabio Capello’s England squad for the upcoming World Cup.

Middlesbrough’s Peter Kirkley spotted Johnson as a 12-year-old, after both Sunderland and Newcastle turned down the chance to take him on because he was too small.

Kirkley told the Sunday Mirror: “Adam was playing for Cleveland Juniors in Middlesbrough and we had a development centre near his home up in Durham. He used to come there with his father.

“He was a very clever player, very quick, but very small.

“I think he had been to ­Newcastle but they hadn`t ­really taken to him. The ­fortunate thing for Adam was that he went to Boro ­because their policy was always about ­ability not size.

“The modern outlook is all about size. When you push a boy forward to a club it`s the first question you get asked, ‘How big is he?`

“Imagine if Lionel Messi had been treated that way – he would never have come through. Now if you look at Adam, Middlesbrough are to be congratulated for the way they waited for him to develop.”