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Football News: What Should Have Been: Part 2 - George Green

What Should Have Been: Part 2 - George Green
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What Should Have Been - Part 2 - George Green

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George William Athelston Green (sounds more like a Victorian statesman than a footballer) was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in 1996. His father died of throat cancer at the age of 8 and his mother worked away a lot, so football provided a stabilising influence in his life, giving him something to focus on. As he moved through the age groups with Bradford City, interest in him increased, with Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich particularly keen on signing the youngster.

Unfortunately, even though he was clearly not ready for a move, Bradford needed (wanted?) the money and so the lad was in essence put up for auction. Spurs looked to have stolen a march on the rest after Harry Redknapp agreed a deal which could have reached up to £600,000 in total for the youngster. Then David Moyes's Everton stepped in and turned his head with a £45,000 signing fee and agreed a deal with Bradford which could have reached £2m if all clauses were met and he signed for them on 3rd October 2011.

The head of football development at Bradford, Archie Christie, was effusive in his praise for Green: "This is one of the highest deals ever for a 15 year old from a League Two club. But George is the best I've seen in his position at his age. He could become another Wayne Rooney or Paul Gascoigne." Christie also admitted that he had advised Green to take the Everton offer: "I told him they've got a great manager who gives young players a chance. Everton are not going to go out and spend £50m on a foreigner, they will spend two or three years developing you. Look at Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell. Even the boy now Ross Barkley. I told him that if he works hard and shows what he is capable of he could be in their first team frame in two or three years."

Everton's academy director at the time, Alan Irvine, was a little more cautious: "He has got good potential but at the moment that's all it is. He has got a lot of work to do. George is a young player who was attracting interest from a number of clubs. We're happy to have him and we're looking forward to working with him here at the academy." Unfortunately, Green admits that all the attention went to his head and he went out and blew the signing-on fee as soon as he got it.

"I was moved too fast. Bradford were struggling at the time for money and I was just an easy way to make some cash. I would much rather have waited another year to finish school and then gone, but I wasn't really given a choice." - George Green

Green joined the Everton youth squad but there were problems with him in training: "I wasn't going into training because I thought I was better than everyone else. Being an idiot. Being an absolute idiot, if I'm honest. I wasn't turning up sometimes because I wasn't enjoying it and I thought I could do what I wanted. When I did go in, I was training absolute shite. When you're playing at that standard you can't do that. It's a better game than that." Along with that he struggled mentally to adjust, though a refusal to admit to his addiction issues probably played a large part in his problems: "It was nothing to do with drink and drugs. I suffered really badly when things started going wrong on the pitch. I wanted to take my life a few times. There were a couple of bad stints."

Comments like that would be released to the press every so often from him until very recently, such as: "They did everything they could but unfortunately I threw it back in their faces. Everton knew I had ability but they wanted to see that I could be more professional and unfortunately I didn't show that. I was sent to see a psychologist to get my head right but he didn't really help. He gave me some tablets which I didn't take because I didn't want to be known as someone who needed that to feel right. It all hit me at once. I pushed away all my friends and family because you don't realise they are there to help."

However it was Green not being honest about what was going on and later he began to be admit his own failings: "Before I turned 18 you wouldn't catch me out at night. As soon as I was 18 it was like a new world opened up. I was drinking, doing drugs and playing football. The first time I took drugs I'd gone to watch football in a pub with mates. I was offered cocaine and it changed my life. I was spending way over £2,000 per month. I remember one particular Monday morning I was supposed to be training. I didn't wake up until the afternoon. The night before I'd gone to a friend's house for drink and drugs. I think that's when alarm bells started ringing at Everton. I remember phoning a welfare officer at Everton one night. I was crying and said, 'I need help.' Soon after I was admitted to the Priory."

"I squandered it all. I'm embarrassed. A good night out? I'd easily spend about £1,500. A meal would cost between £200 and £300. I'd be like 'let's get a bottle of champagne' and then a girl would and sit next to me and I'd be like 'would you like a bottle of champagne?' Earning the money I was, I thought it was never going to end. Everybody wanted to know who I was and I was enjoying life. But I never got introduced to people who would keep me on the straight and narrow. They drank and did drugs and I fell into that circle. I got a brand-new Mercedes-Benz A-class and did about £4,000 damage to it. That stemmed from drink-driving. I was ridiculous. I used to drink-drive everywhere."

Everton, who were losing patience with him after paying for 5 weeks in the Priory for him at £5,000 per week, sent him on loan to Tranmere Rovers in March 2015. When he returned in June, David Unsworth told the then-19-year-old that he was surplus to requirements and was being released. Green never made a senior appearance for Everton.

Green admits that being released was not easy for him: "Leaving Everton hit me hard. I was stood on a railway track close to Mirfield station near Dewsbury ready for a train to come. I remember it being around eight or nine o'clock at night. I hadn't written a note. It was all the pressures of everything in my life. The drugs, the alcohol, my mental health, football wasn't going well, lack of money. Then there was an announcement over the speakers that the next train was delayed. I thought 'it much be a sign that it can't be my time to go'. I broke down in tears and walked away."

Despite that, a few days later on the 19th June Green signed a 2-year deal at Oldham Athletic with an option for a further year. However he only lasted there until November before voluntarily terminating his contract at the Latics. Days later he joined a local non-league side, Ossett Albion, on non-contract terms. After a few weeks with them, he went on trial for a week at Burnley in January 2016. He spent the time at their Gawthorpe Hall training ground and also took part in a practice match against Loughborough University, where he scored within 30sec of the kick-off and notched a hat-trick in a 5-1 win. It was enough to see him signed on an initial 6-month deal with the Clarets.

Burnley extended his deal in the summer and he went to Kilmarnock on a 6-month loan in August. That loan spell did not last long and he was sent home after Killie manager Lee Clark sent him back and accused him of turning up to training reeking of booze. Green denied the accusations but the loan was over. In January Salford City decided they were willing to take a chance on him and he joined them on loan for the rest of the season. That loan was even more of a disaster than the Killie one.

"I have had problems with mental health. I've suffered from depression and addiction. I was on a downward spiral. From the age of 17 or 18, I knew there was something wrong. People around me knew, but I didn't want to admit it. While I was at Salford City, I tried to take my own life. That was an overdose. I went on an outrage and decided that was the best idea. I took a lot of paracetamol, anti-depressants and strong pain-killers. It was probably a massive cry for attention that I needed help. People knew I needed the help but I knew something serious needed to happen for me to get it. Things weren't going well at home. I wasn't sleeping right. I was drinking too much. I'd seen crisis teams in hospital and they had turned me away. I had cut myself countless times and they had turned me away too, so I thought: 'What have I got to do to get the proper help?' I was taken into hospital after the overdose. They put me on a drip and flushed it all out of me.

"I shit on them basically. I met Gary Neville at his house and he spoke me through what could be done to help me. I was like: 'I don't know what you can do - I'm doing OK.' I wasn't OK, but I didn't want to let on to a fellow professional footballer that I was struggling. Then I didn't turn up for a match, so they sent me back to Burnley. I was on the sick at Burnley for about four months. I really wasn't well mentally." Unsurprisingly Burnley released him in the summer.

It was not long before he found another club, joining Norwegian club Viking FK (often known as Viking Stavanger) but a few months later, in November 2017, his contract was terminated due to off field incidents. Nuneaton Town were next to take a chance on him when he joined them in February for the rest of the season. While there he discussed his problems: "It has taken a lot of therapy sessions and going to see psychologists to get me to a better place. One said I was bipolar. In the past year, I have been diagnosed with ADHD and I have been on medication since then and it has been calm. Things have been going well. Home life's going well, which plays a really important part. Things are on the up now. The medication I'm on keeps me to a level where I can be George Green and go and perform on the pitch and do what I do best. I'm fit again, I'm doing well at Nuneaton, I'm playing games, I have got into Jamie Vardy's V9 Academy for the summer and I'm attracting interest from clubs in the Football League. I feel a million times better than I have done for a long time."

That summer he moved on again, this time to Chester FC where he signed a 1-year contract with a potential 1-year extension that was never activated. He was once more without a club at the end of the season. June 2019 saw him join Boston United, who sent him on loan to Gainsborough Trinity for a month in November. At the end of the season, he moved on to Ossett United and is still there now while training to be an electrician, as he finally prepares for life outside football.

For all his optimism back in 2018, and the support he receives on a daily basis from ex-Aston Villa player Gary Charles, Green has failed to show the potential that gained him a call up for England's U-17s back in 2013. His goal for them against Estonia in a UEFA European U-17 Championship qualifying round has turned out to be the pinnacle of a career that promised so much but delivered so little. His addictions, which have left him attending weekly AA and Cocaine Anonymous meetings for the rest of his life, have cost him a chance in the game.

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To read the first in this series on Adriano, click here.

Written by Tris Burke November 04 2021 12:58:24


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