Ross Sykes was released from Burnley’s Academy for being too small – now the 6’6” defender is towering above the League One strikers.

The Burnley-born defender came through the youth ranks at Accrington Stanley after being released from the Clarets aged 13.

He debated giving up football after being let go but was persuaded by his mum Paula to go for a trial at Stanley and was taken on in 2015.

The tall centre half signed a two-year professional deal with the club in May 2016, making his senior debut for the Reds in the EFL Trophy that year.

The 19-year-old then put pen to paper on a new contract in 2018, making his first league start against Gillingham on the opening day of this season – and has won praise for his performances ever since.

“I was gutted when I was released from Burnley, it was for being too small which is hard to believe now,” said Ross.

“I came on trial here and haven’t looked back. We had a good run in the FA Youth Cup to get to the Third Round where we got beat by Crystal Palace in extra-time. I captained the side which was a proud moment.

“I have developed a lot under the coaches here and was excited to be offered a scholarship when I was just 15.

“It was always my dream to play football, I did have a back-up plan to do Business Studies at college, but thankfully I haven’t needed it yet!

“I went on loan to Southport last season in the Conference North and that was a great experience, playing against adults. I came on a lot.

“This season has been really good for me. I worked hard during the summer, I ran on the beach every day, I went to the gym and it’s paying off now.

“I have been really pleased with the run in the team. The Ipswich and Derby games in the FA Cup were great games to play in.

“Now I want to keep my place and keep playing regularly. Playing alongside Mark Hughes, I am learning all the time. He talks to me in games and training and it helps me a lot.

“If I had one bit of advice it would be – never give up and keep working hard.”

Head of Academy Paul Lodge said: “We are proud to see Ross playing for the first team, a lad who has come through the ranks with us.

“Ross has worked hard to get where he is now, he is a strong lad and is a really good player.

“We want to bring as many through to the first team as possible and Ross is a great example of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.”