A year on from making his first team debut, we spoke to George Horbury on his progression through the PDC and subsequently the club’s Academy.
It’s a short career for those lucky enough to play at a professional standard. While many may be fixated with the lure of that almost impossible dream, others choose to equip themselves with the tools to build a career for when they eventually hang up their boots.
George Horbury made history when he became the first Academy player to sign professional terms with the club. However, weeks before signing the contract, Horbury was studying hard for his A-level examinations. As a result, the midfielder left school with several A-level qualifications to his name.
“It was difficult balancing my A-Levels and football at the same time but the club did everything they could to help me and I really appreciate it. Obviously you are trying to earn a contract with the club but Paul Stansfield and Josh Law showed a lot of patience with me.
“They created an environment where I was comfortable and felt confident and I think that helped me to develop as a player and as a person. I am proud that I managed to get my A-Levels and earn a pro-contract that was a big achievement for me.”
“The club knew I was about to sit my A-Levels so I had a meeting with the gaffer and he told me in April that I had a contract there for me. That was a massive relief. I could then focus on my exams and know that I had my future secured.”
In being the first academy player to sign professional terms with the club, Horbury has set his sights on doing all he can to help others follow in his footsteps.
“It’s sunk in now, it feels very real. It took a while to get used to the lifestyle that you have as a footballer but I am really privileged to be a footballer and I am hoping to maximise the potential it brings.
“To do that it is about working hard every day in training and away from the pitch to make sure that I earn that opportunity. Hopefully there is more to come, I am the first but hopefully it’s the beginning of a pathway for others and one which helps others to be given an opportunity like I have been given.”
While doing so, Horbury is ready to take on somewhat of a leadership role in helping the club’s current Academy squad.
“I know the lads, I was with them last year and I am trying to set a good example for them. When I train with them I try to bring maintain the standards at the level the first team have.
“Sometimes I will talk to them about the experiences I have had. Maybe there is a bit of pressure but I try to be myself and do the right things and help them where I can.
“When the young lads train with the first team they are still learning the environment. With my experience in the Academy I always try to talk to them and help them get involved at training but they are all good players and good characters.”
Reflecting on the achievement of becoming a professional footballer, the local lad highlighted a period of his career as instrumental in allowing him to achieve his long-standing dream.
“I was in the U17 side for the club but I was asked to play a couple of friendlies with Harrogate Railway just after the covid lockdown and I loved it. We had a pre-season with them and there was a lot of running. I really enjoyed my experience there.
“I came in to the pre-season with the Academy on the back of a pre-season and a couple of games so I felt my fitness levels were good and I started the season well.
“Looking back I think that was hugely beneficial for me. I was given experience of playing men’s football which is a huge step up in physicality. I came back to academy football and felt in great shape and my confidence was high.”
Having lived in the local area, the privilege to play for his local club is not one which is lost for Horbury.
“Being a professional footballer and playing for my local team is an ideal scenario for me. My family are able to make it to most of the games and it great to be able to play in front of them and it is an experience which fills me with pride.”
“Everyone knows the club’s story and they are always keeping an eye on results. It’s not something I realised but so many of my friends and family have connections to the club so you see what it means to them every week.”
Horbury was a member of our Player Development Centre before progressing to the Academy, with our new partnsership with Rossett School set to provide more opportunities to local footballers like George to realise their dreams.