George Boateng predicts bright England future for Hull City starlet Tom Cairney
Boateng saw Stewart Downing come through Middlesbrough's ranks to gain full England honours and he confidently predicted rookie midfielder Cairney, 19, would follow in the winger's footsteps after his impressive display in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea. 'I hope he stays grounded because he's a tremendous talent and if he works on his game, he'll be an England international he's that good,' Boateng said. Sunderland teenager Jordan Henderson relishing more Premier League opportunities'It's a big statement but I said this with Stewart Downing when he was 17 at Middlesbrough. Stewart made it because he's a down-to-earth guy and worked hard on his fitness. Tom, with a bit of belief, can do it because he's that good. 'In the future I want to be sat at home and say to my kids 'You see that boy wearing the England shirt? I played with him.' That would be a very proud moment for me.' Nottingham-born Cairney's sudden rise to prominence in the absence of injury-jinxed Jimmy Bullard at Hull is all the more remarkable because he was ushered out of Leeds as a schoolboy because he was deemed too small. 'I'm pleased for him but I just hope people will not spoil it and write too much stuff where his head will become too big for him because he's a tremendous talent,' Boateng added. 'What brought me this far is that I keep my feet on the floor. I've had highs and lows but I've never thought that I am bigger than what I am. I like players like Tom who are still grounded and he's a joy to play with.' The pair have formed an impressive midfield alliance following months of work on Hull's practice ground with Boateng now charged by Hull manager Phil Brown with nurturing Cairney who is being urged to focus on England despite representing Scotland at youth level. Cairney regularly seeks Boateng's advice and the former Aston Villa player is clearly relishing a mentoring role that revived memories of his days playing alongside Ronald Koeman in Holland. 'He's my boy, I like him a lot,' Boateng, 34, continued. 'I played with Ronald Koeman and he was my mentor. Many years before I played with him I was a ball boy at the European Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam when Barcelona played Manchester United. 'He scored in that game and four years later I played with him at Feyenoord. I loved him and he coached me all the time. He would say 'don't run with the ball, just give it to me, you run and I will deliver the ball.' 'It helps you so much when you've got a player like that. I looked up to him and we've stayed always in contact. After a while we were competing because I wanted to be better than him. I'm ready for that with Tom but I don't mind, so long as it helps him.'
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