"I'm getting back to my best" - Town striker Adan George on his injury, playing with Jude Bellingham and joining The Shaymen

If Adan George tackles the rest of his career with the same resilience he's shown so far, the sky's the limit.
Adan GeorgeAdan George
Adan George

George was being tipped for the top when disaster struck in 2021 and he injured his anterior cruciate ligament playing in a pre-season friendly for Birmingham City.

Since then, it has been a long road back for the 21-year-old, but the Town forward believes he is getting back to his best.

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"It was a bit of a struggle at times when I was first getting reintroduced, and even the start of this season, I just didn't feel 100 per cent, but that was because I lacked the consistency of games over the last couple of years," George tells the Courier.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Adan George celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the Premier Development League Play Off Final match between Sheffield United U23 and Birmingham City U23 at Bramall Lane on May 24, 2021 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Adan George celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the Premier Development League Play Off Final match between Sheffield United U23 and Birmingham City U23 at Bramall Lane on May 24, 2021 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Adan George celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the Premier Development League Play Off Final match between Sheffield United U23 and Birmingham City U23 at Bramall Lane on May 24, 2021 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

"Without playing games you don't know how you're going to be performing in games, but the more I've played the more I've felt like my body gets those reflex moments back, the little moments where I'll be doing the things I was doing before.

"So I do feel mostly the same. I feel a lot stronger generally. I'd like to think I've kept up my speed, which is a big part of my game.

"I've played a lot of different levels in the last couple of years now, I've gone from Championship to being around League Two to 23s to dropping down to the Southern Central Premier Division and then to National League North and then National League.

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"So I've always had to get used to playing against different types of opposition and I've still lacked a bit of consistency concerning game time.

Adan GeorgeAdan George
Adan George

"At times I see glimpses of myself but it hasn't been consistent playing against the same level of opposition, sometimes I might need a bit of time to get used to things again.

"That's the life of being a football player and being a striker, you do have to adapt quickly.

"By the end of the season that'll be a full season I'll have had back playing football and I definitely feel like I'll be back very much near my best.

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"I think it'll be a huge confidence boost knowing physically I can go a whole season playing games and be fit, and also confidence-wise, knowing I've got a few games under my belt and that consistency back, so those split seconds with decision-making in games will help me, whether it's beating a player with an extra yard or shifting so I can get a shot off, little things like that.

"I feel more and more each game that it's growing and I'm getting back to my best."

His best had seen George, 21, linked with a move to the Premier League and break into the first-team at Birmingham.

George only started playing football aged 11 for Midlands Sunday League side Continental Star, and was scouted by West Brom after only six months.

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After another six months, George joined The Baggies' academy after a successful trial.

"Because I hadn't been playing football long at that point, it was a good introduction because they were all about winning games, even in the academy, so it was a good environment to get used to that feeling and competitiveness, so it was good to have that at a young age," he says.

"I did a year there and ended up at Birmingham after West Brom released me.

"I think it was better that I did get released because The Blues were a bit more about individuality and development, which I needed more of because I hadn't had that because I started so late.

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"Before I joined West Brom's academy I didn't even know academies existed so it was a good introduction to something serious and it was a good move to The Blues to work on my game more specifically."

George first started playing football as a right-back but quickly became a winger, starting to play up-front when he joined West Brom.

He joined Birmingham City aged 14.

"At first I was just getting used to it but as I moved up to the under 16s and into my scholar years, I started to become one of the more promising players, so I started playing up with the under 18s a bit more," he says.

"When I moved into scholar I was scoring well for the under 18s and moved up to the under 21s quite early.

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"I played 21s from when I was 16 and stayed there for the next few years."

George enjoyed something of a meteoric rise through the ranks at Birmingham, as did one of his team-mates, Jude Belligham.

"When I joined, funnily enough, the first game I played was a friendly game, like a mix of a few triallists, I think it was a 16s game and Jude was played aged 13 and I was 14," George recalls.

"He was the year younger than me but because of his ability he was in my year so I played in the same teams as him every season until he moved up to the first-team.

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"From early on, for himself, his family and the club it was very much a thing where they knew what he was, he knew what he was, obviously very talented.

"He was very small at those ages but you could see his ability technically.

"He didn't have the physical side to him so sometimes he might struggle a bit at that age but you could always see his technical ability was always better than most.

"He's a strong character, even from very young he was loud, like a born leader, a good character when we wanted to win games.

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"He was sort of on his own path with the club, he had his own programme set-up with the coaches so his trajectory was always going very far."

Is George surprised at where Bellingham has ended up?

"I don't think you can ever guess, no matter how good someone is, that this early, someone would be at Real Madrid and England," he says.

"Everyone would know he was going to go far but you just wouldn't have guessed it would be this quickly, this early.

"But it's not surprising seeing him there now, knowing the type of character he is.

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"He's ultra confident and he never really crumbles under pressure. When you have those sorts of things the sky's the limit."

George also played with current Town team-mate Kane Thomson-Sommers as a scholar at Birmingham.

"It was good playing with Kane, we had a good group of players," he says.

Also among George's former team-mates, from his days at West Brom, are Morgan Rogers, who now plays for Aston Villa, Taylor Gardner-Hickman of Bristol City and Middlesbrough duo Alex Gilbert and Finn Azaz.

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It looked like George would graduate from Birmingham's youth team with flying colours after a memorable 2020-21 season in which he made his first team debut and won the Professional Development League.

"That pre-season I wasn't really expecting to go up to the first-team but there weren't that many strikers there and unfortunately, Lukas Jutkiewicz picked up a small injury so it meant I was pretty much the only striker, so it gave me the opportunity to spend the whole pre-season with them," he says.

"I played against Tottenham in pre-season and played the first couple of games and off the back of that I went on loan to Walsall, which was one of those deadline day, last minute things.

"It would have been a good loan had I got some games there but I don't know if the manager didn't think I was old enough or whatever.

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"He might have seen it as me getting some first-team experience which I was a bit disappointed about because I didn't think I needed to watch, I'd already had experience with Blues' first-team at that point so it was a bit disappointing not to get any games there.

"But I did get a feel for clubs around that level and I went back to Blues' in January, picked up a small injury for three or four weeks, but after that, played the rest of the season with the 23s in a very good squad, including Kane, and we won pretty much every game from that point and won the PDL.

"That was a lot better feeling than I thought it'd be. I hadn't won a trophy since I was at West Brom and it felt good being in a winning team, the team's established, everyone's playing well, you feel on top of the world."

George's world would then come crashing down due to his ACL injury, and he would play just four league games in the next two years, spending the whole of the 2021-22 season out injured and then being hampered by repeated hamstring injuries the following campaign.

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"It was pre-season friendly against Salford at the end of July," he recalls.

"I felt something in my knee but I got back up and the physio asked me to do a little jog.

"It felt a bit funny but I thought I'd be fine.

"When I came back the next morning my knee was just completely swollen and they told me they thought I'd done my ACL and I needed surgery.

"It was a bit of a shock at the time but I think I accepted it quite quickly for what it was.

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"They told me I'd be spending the season out so I tried to treat it as 'this season I'll just get my head down' and it helped me put on a bit of size.

"I was never a weak sort of player but adding a bit of size helped a bit as well.

"I'd always had big legs but my upper body was still a bit lean so adding a bit of size in the gym helped, which is a lot more difficult when you have games week-in, week-out.

"So I see it as an opportunity really that I had to understand my body, understand what it's like injury-wise to know how to prevent it for the future and what I need to do in the gym to maintain (my fitness), so it was a good lesson for me.

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"I wish it didn't happen but I'm also in some ways happy it did because there are lessons that are learned from it."

George admits it was tough watching on as his team-mates made the progress he couldn't.

"It is difficult, especially that first year because watching everyone play, Jude and all the other players around me getting chances on loan or in Blues' first-team, it was difficult sitting and watching, thinking 'I wish I was fit so I could be a part of it'," he says.

"But as a Christian, to me it was always a thing where people have their own timings but I work on God's timing.

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"Even though it's annoying watching on I never really was anywhere near resentful, I didn't feel jealous of anyone else, I just thought 'this is something I have to go through and I have to believe there's a reason for it."

George's faith is a big part of his life - his father is a church elder - and played a key role in his recovery.

"I pretty much grew up going to church every weekend and my coach at Blues, Steve Spooner, is a good Christian man," he says.

"I've had a good support group with my family and people I know. I think there's a sense of security and that little bit of peace that you have when you believe in God.

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"I'm happy I have something to trust in because I can imagine how difficult it is when you think the world is against you."

George's reintroduction to the game started at non-league Alvechurch.

"In the summer when I was talking to my dad and my agent about my plans for the season after being released from Blues, initially it was just crucial to me I was getting games, I didn't care what level it was at," he says.

"Alvechurch was a good environment where I could come and get some games back in my legs, which is what I needed the most because I didn't want to go somewhere and be up and down with my minutes after missing out on two years of playing.

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"Alvechurch was a good place to start but we always hoped that by January, there'd be a move to this sort of level after getting my minutes in and progressing, to try and work back up and get as high as I possibly can.

"It's a quick progression but it's one we planned for, hoped for, prayed for.

"You make one, three or five year plans in football or goals for what you want as a player but anything can happen injury-wise or manager-wise, you never know.

"There is an idea five years ago where I thought I'd be now but things change so you have to adapt and change with that.

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"My ultimate goals haven't changed, I just have to work with where I am now, work my hardest at the level I'm currently at and just try to be the best in every league I play in."

When asked why Halifax was the right club for him, George said: "I heard of interest in the summer, I've heard good things from Kane saying he's enjoyed his time here.

"Around the time it was happening there were very positive messages from the manager in regards to the involvement I'd have, the types of players they have here.

"It's a great environment for me to keep developing, which is crucial since I missed out on a couple of years of it.

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"And it's good to be in an environment where it matters about winning games too and the pressure of scoring goals and things like that whilst being part of an organised and god technical team that will play football.

"Hopefully by the end of the season we'll have picked up a few wins, because we're good enough to get them, and we're back in the play-off positions."

Town's track record of developing players who move into the Football League didn't do any harm either.

"That's something I was told about how many there have been, how many success stories that have gone up the pyramid," George says.

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"There must be a reason that's happening. As long as I get my head down and work as hard as I can, hopefully I'll be another one of those stories."

George is yet to score for Halifax in four appearances.

"I've done alright, I've worked hard, doing what I think most people would want me to do, making runs in-behind, holding the ball up," he says.

"I've been a bit frustrated I haven't got on the scoresheet, I don't think I've ever gone four games without scoring so hopefully it doesn't last too long.

"But I am confident I'll end the season with a lot of goals.

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"I'm never scared at the prospect of not scoring, I'm the type of player that will always get chances so I just have to be ready to take them when they come.

"There's a lot of games until the end of the season and a lot of opportunities for me and the club to still do really well."

If Town are to do that, they'll need to arrest their slump in form which has seen them go six games without a win.

"Results-wise it obviously hasn't been the best the last few games," George says.

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"I think we've put in some good performances in maybe a half but we need to do it over a whole game.

"We need to be tighter as a group defensively and not give as much away at times but I think we're going in the right direction and I think it's only a matter of time before results start to turn around for us.

"We're a good bunch of players but we have to keep confident and believe in ourselves that we are going in the right direction."

After a tough two or three years, George is moving in the right direction as well, and isn't intent o stopping now.

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"It's always been to play in the Premier League," he says when asked what his ambitions are in the game.

"I've been around a lot of players who've played at that level, trained with a lot of players who've played at that level, so I know I can do it.

"I want to play in the Premier League and I want to score as many goals as I can in there.

"When you look at people like Jamie Vardy you know it's never too late."

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It would be natural for someone like George to feel like they had lost time to make up for, but the forward looks at things differently.

"I definitely did feel I had to do that during the time I was injured and then when I first started playing, I was always in the mindset that I had to catch up, but I'm trying to move away from that thinking," he says.

"It's less to do with catching up and more to do with where I am now because football moves very quickly and you can go from anywhere in a moment so I just need to keep my head down and focus on my performances every game and try to get on the scoresheet as much as possible.

"I am still relatively young so I've got time to have a long career, as long as I try to keep putting in the best performances I can it's only a matter of time before I end up where I want to be."

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George says he doesn't regret the injury happening due to the lessons it taught him.

"At the end of the day now, there aren't going to be many worse feelings than not being able to play football," he says.

"No matter what situation comes in-front of me now, I've already had to deal with the worst of it because if I'm fit, it's not going to be as bad as when I was injured.

"When things weren't going great, it's helped put things in perspective and there are still positives to take out of situations.

"As long as I'm fit I can do something about things.

"It's a good lesson I learned to toughen me up in the sense of there's not much that can put me down in my career I don't believe."