George Boyd Non-League to Premier League

Former Clarets Winger Discusses His Career

George Boyd started his football career at Charlton Athletic aged eleven spending five years as part of the youth team squad, however he was released by the club and joined Stevenage Borough youth team on a college scheme in 2001. Boyd, signed his first Pro contract in 2002 and made his debut for Stevenage Borough in the National Conference against Margate in a 3-1 defeat at Broadhall Way.

He came to the attention of Stevenage manager Graham Westley after a number of outstanding performances for the clubs youth team. It was whilst training with the first team squad that he showed his true talent and become a first team regular, however he recalls being tought a lesson by experienced pro and captain Steve Watson. ” I remember nut megging him in training one day and the next challenge he lifted me off the floor, as I lay there on the floor he shouted at me ‘Don’t you ever fucking do that to me again’.

Whilst he was cutting his teeth at the coalface and forging a reputation as one of the finest talents in the National Conference. Boyd had clocked up over 120 appearances, scoring 31 goals and was starting to attract attention from other clubs. After five years at the club, he joined Peterborough United in 2007 for a non-league record fee of £260,000. The fee was a release clause in my contract said Boyd “It was set by the Chairman Phil Wallace as he thought nobody would ever be willing to pay that amount of money for me.”

Its fair to say my six year spell with Peterborough United started better than it finished, in my first season at the club we won promotion from Sky Bet League Two into League One. The following season we finished second in the league and won back to back promotions in the Sky Bet Championship. The season finished with an International cap for Scotland B against Northern Ireland B were I scored the second goal of the game on my debut. We had a great team for those first three season with Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McClean who won the Sky Bet League Two Golden Boot, it was a special time around the club.

Boyd, was coming towards the end of his three year contract in the Championship season and with no sign of the club offering him an extension in March of that season he joined Nottingham Forest on loan until the end of the season. After just 6 appearances, scoring 1 goal he left the City Ground and returned to Peterborough United signing a new three year contract back in Sky Bet League One following Peterborough United’s relegation from the Championship the previous season.

After spending a further two and a half years at London Road he found himself in a familiar position, with his contract due to expire in six months the club gave him the option of signing a new deal or letting his contract expire whilst going out on loan. After making 263 appearances, scoring 64 goals for the club, Boyd made the decision to join Steve Bruce at Hull City on loan and at the end of the season he joined Hull City on a free transfer in the Premier League.

He made his Premier League debut on the opening day of the 2013-14 season coming off the bench in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It took him until December 2013 to score his first Premier League goal which came against Fulham in a 6-0 home win. His second goal, a towering header in a 1-0 win over Swansea City in April 2014 proved to be massive as it secured the clubs Premier League status. He finished the campaign playing in the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium coming on against Arsenal in a 3-2 defeat. Boyd started the following season making his and the clubs debut in the Europa League as they lost 1-0 in the first leg away to Lokeren, a week later he was sold to fellow Premier League side Burnley for a reported three million pound.

As Sean Dyche started his second season as the Clarets boss, George Boyd was one of eight players brought into the club alongside Michael Knightly, Matt Gilks, Marvin Sordell, Matt Taylor, Steven Reid, Stephen Ward and Lukas Jutkiewicz. Boyd, signed a three year deal with the club and missed just three leagues becoming very much part of the first team that won the Sky Bet Championship to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

As he started the final year of his contract in the Premier League, Boyd was starting to be known not just for his ability on the ball and excellent crosses into the box, but also for his defensive work running 58 miles in the first seven Premier League matches of the season. Boyd, rejected the offer of a new one year contract in April and was free to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of June 2017. He made 123 appearances, scoring 12 goals during a three year spell at Turf Moor.

Boyd subsequently signed for Championship club Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer and despite dropping down a level to the Sky Bet Championship he described the move as a “no-brainer”. His debut for Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day of the 2017 season was a 1-0 defeat away at Preston North End and he was substituted after 67 minutes.

After suffering a shoulder injury which was described as “nothing serious” but would ultimately require two surgeries and keep him out of first-team action for four months. He returned to the first-team action at the start of the year in the FA Cup against Carlisle Utd which finished 0-0. Boyd, scored his first goal for the club in the 3–1 victory over Reading at Hillsborough on the 26th January 2018. After a couple of injury hit season’s the club made the decision not to renew his contract and he was released on the 5th May 2019.

Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson resigned him at the start of this season but after making just 22 appearances for the club the season was halted by a worldwide pandemic called COVID-19. Chadwick Media spoke to the former Clarets midfielder to discuss his career and his rise from non-league football to the Premier League star.

INTERVIEW

What advice would you give to youngsters starting out in football?

I look at the U23 footballers now and think its pointless, its boring there is nothing to it, I got a good grounding and a bit of humility as an eighteen year old at Stevenage Borough. Of course it was a bit of a hard-knock apprenticeship, but I would advise anybody in the U23’s to get out of it as soon as possible, go on loan to the Vanarama National League or Sky Bet League Two teams and understand what men’s football is all about.

I believe you had another job whilst playing for Stevenage Borough?

Yes it was difficult to make ends meet whilst starting out in non-league football, so I had to work part-time in a sweet shop to supplement my income in those early days. I worked five hours, so it wasn’t really a proper job it was just pocket money. I still remember finishing a shift and walking from the train station back to my digs in Hitchin, it was a horrible feeling living in those digs, so far from home. But it makes it all the sweeter when you make it.

Where you ever given a nickname at a club?

I had a nickname at Stevenage Borough, I was so tiny when I arrived at the club, I didn’t really start to fill out until I was about nineteen. I was also playing in size 11 boots which were too big for me because I only took a size 9, I don’t know what I looked like but the lads used to call me Sideshow Bob.

Did non-league football put you on the path to the Premier League?

I might never have got there without that grounding of non-league football. I joined Stevenage Borough at sixteen when most youth team players were still miles from the first team. Wayne Turner, who was the manager at the time integrated me into the first team straight away. I was getting stick and lumps kicked out of me but looking back I needed those years to learn how to express myself. Then Graham Westley arrived at the club and I learn a lot from him both mentally and physically, he developed my game so much. He’d take me to a sprint specialist in Richmond on Tuesdays, trying to get my speed up, we would be on treadmills doing leg weights, working on running techniques and that’s just one example of what he did for me, he was brilliant.

How did you enjoy playing in the Premier League?

It was an absolute dream to play at that level, it really is the best league in the world there is so much media and scrutiny at that level. It’s like everything that you do is suddenly magnified, I loved it.

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