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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 07:11 GMT
Kightly flying high at Wolves
By Chris Bevan

Michael Kightly
When I got that first goal I felt myself grow two feet taller. I started to think that I belong at this level.

Wolves winger Michael Kightly

Wolves winger Michael Kightly knows the exact moment he felt the part as a Championship footballer.

Playing against QPR on a wet afternoon in December, in only his second game following a loan move from Conference side Grays Athletic, Kightly swept home the winner.

Since then the man previously known as the 'Ryan Giggs of non-League' has not looked back.

"When you make the step up you then need to prove to people that you can do it at that level and get respect from your own team-mates and fans," explained Kightly.

"When I got that first goal I felt myself grow two feet taller. I could feel my confidence had grown in seconds and I started to think that I belong at this level."

Kightly's performances since then have certainly backed up that belief - and he has impressed a few other people along the way.

Even Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson must have seen something of Giggs in him - as the Premiership club tried to hijack Wolves' deal to sign Kightly permanently in January.

But instead it was Mick McCarthy who kept him at Molineux for a nominal fee - surely one of the bargains of the season.

"I knew a little bit about United's interest from Grays but I am more than happy here," added Kightly.

"I could not have dreamed for a better start to my time at Wolves but I just have to keep it going now."

And Kightly - who turned 21 on 24 January - knows better than anyone not to take success for granted.

During his 18 months at Grays he bagged 24 goals in 45 Conference starts and picked up an FA Trophy winner's medal to boot.

But more importantly that spell restored his own faith in his ability after the disappointment of dropping out of the Football League when Southend released him at the age of 19.

"At Southend I turned professional early and was doing really well there," said Kightly. "I even had a few bigger clubs enquire about me.

"Then, for whatever reason, in my last year the manager Steve Tilson did not want me.

Born: Basildon
Age: 21
Clubs: Southend (03-05), Farnborough (loan 04-05), Grays (05-06), Wolves (loan 06), Wolves (07- )
Games: 98
Goals: 28

"It was best for me to take a step back and go to Grays to get some games under my belt.

"I did that under a brilliant manager, Mark Stimson, who, along with a bit of nurturing from the likes of Dean Austin, turned me into a better player.

"They are the two people who kickstarted my career.

"I went on loan from Southend to Farnborough, where Dean was manager, and became good friends with him. I stayed in contact with him and he helped me a lot through the bad times.

"And Mark has done wonders for me. Looking back, joining Grays was the best thing that could have happened to me."

It is a big step from the Conference to the Championship and Kightly accepts he is still adjusting - and is keen to keep improving.

He has scored twice in seven games but missed Sunday's FA Cup tie with West Brom because he played in an earlier round for Grays.

"The biggest difference between the Championship and the Conference is the quality," he added.

"At Conference level some teams have a couple of good players but at this level you have got good players throughout - at Wolves you cannot pick a bad player in our 25-man squad.

"Playing with better players makes you look better and if you make runs they find you better.

"But I also feel I have learned a lot over the two months I have been here.

"I have got sharper and I have got more idea when to use my body to get in the way of the ball.

"When your football is going well you are always enjoying yourself but I am not silly.

"I know things can turn in seconds so I am just concentrating on working as hard as I can and keeping my form going. "

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