IT'S the kind of blow that could cut any ambitious, young footballer down to size...but Dom Thomas is determined to prove he can crack the big time.

The pint-sized 19-year-old winger is the latest talent to emerge from the Motherwell youth academy that has churned out stars such as James McFadden, Stephen Pearson and Jamie Murphy this millennium.

But Thomas has had to endure some heartbreaking growing pains after being told by Celtic he was too small to live his football dream.

Now, though, having been at Fir Park for five years, he is standing tall on his own merits under new boss Ian Baraclough.

After being handed his claret and amber debut on December 20 in the 1-0 win over St Mirren, Thomas has gone on to rack up a further seven first-team appearances.

It is a run of dazzling performances that have not gone unnoticed by his manager, with the Glasgow boy being rewarded with a new three-and-a-half year contract last week.

However, speaking exclusively to SportTimes, he explained how one key characteristic brought him to Fir Park at the age of 14.

"I'm delighted to have signed," said Thomas. "I feel that I'm at a good club with good people who will help me in my career.

"I came here from Celtic when I was 14, then I signed full-time when I was 16.

"Celtic actually stopped playing me when I got to under-14s because they said I was too small. That's when I asked to leave.

"They didn't want me to go, but I thought it was the right decision and I'm even more sure of it now. I played here, my height wasn't a problem and I'm starting to show now what I can do."

It is an experience that Thomas is keen to soak up every second of.

Just a few days before featuring in Motherwell's 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock on Saturday, where his quick feet and trickery caused the visitors all sorts of problems on the left wing, the teenager produced a stunning performance for the under-20s against Killie.

"During the week I scored two and got an assist so I was happy with that," said Thomas. "It's good to keep playing with the 20s. Obviously it keeps up your fitness and sharpness, and I'm always learning.

"I'd play every day if I could. I know it's my job, but I'd play for free. I'm lucky enough to be doing this as a living.

"A lot of people would give their right arm to be here. I'm delighted to be doing it."

Despite being one of many youngsters to be thrust into the Motherwell first-team, Thomas is the one who has been heralded by some fans as the most naturally-talented player to come through the ranks since McFadden a generation earlier.

It is an expectation which could hinder the development of many a player. Not this one, however.

"I take it all in my stride," he said. "I like it [being compared to McFadden] because obviously it puts pressure on me, which we need.

"The fans are really good with me and give you that extra bit of encouragement. You also have players that have come through the ranks.

"Guys like Stephen Pearson have been there and done it as a youngster at Motherwell and that helps me."

The rising stars of many other clubs may get carried away such a quick rise to prominence. But the wide man has not forgotten where he came from.

"I still do a bit to help the boys out," said Thomas. "They are all my pals and in the same position as me. I help out when I can.

"I clean the dressing rooms, clean the boots, tidy the place up. Nothing too hard. Just now and again! The coaches keep on my back to make sure I do it to help keep my feet on the ground."

Turning his attention to the man who gave him his break in the Motherwell first team, Thomas said of Baraclough: "The gaffer has been brilliant with me. I couldn't have asked for a better person to have got the manager's job.

"I was on the bench for a season under Stuart McCall, which was good experience. I enjoyed going away on trips and things with them as a young boy. Training with the first team as well really got me ready.

"I thanked Stuart for that as well, but I need to thank the gaffer for giving me that chance."