George Boyd: My pre-match meal used to be a ham and cheese baguette from Tesco

Burnley winger George Boyd has told FourFourTwo of his steady ascent from Non-League to the top flight – including certain lifestyle changes he’s had to make along the way.

Boyd was released by Charlton Athletic aged 15 and duly snapped up by Conference National side Stevenage, for whom he made his senior debut in 2002 and left for then-League Two Peterborough in 2007.

Since then the 31-year-old has played in each of England’s top four divisions, and finally made his Premier League debut for Hull in 2013/14.

One of my mates’ dad owned a sweet shop at Hitchin station, so I worked there for five or six hours a week on about £5 an hour

Boyd joined Burnley for the 2014/15 campaign and has earned a reputation as a tireless top-flight winger since then – but his route to the top has been a long and winding one, as the man himself recalls.

“I was too small at 15, not the height I am right now,” Boyd says in the latest instalment for FourFourTwo Films, Non-League to Premier League. “I didn’t really grow until I was 19, and this was an era where you had to be big, strong and quick.

“One of my mates’ dad owned a sweet shop at Hitchin station, so I worked there for five or six hours a week on about £5 an hour. Then I had to get my train back to Kent, which was about £20!

“It was devastating to leave Charlton – I cried all the way home. Everyone’s dream is to play professional football, training every day. When I got released there were Premier League trials for all of the kids that got released in the summer. Scouts lined up and you’d get a letter with all of the clubs who were interested in you. I think mine were Bristol City, Farnborough and Stevenage.

“[In Non-League] the showers never worked, or they were freezing cold. My pre-match meal is professional now but I used to have a ham and cheese baguette from Tesco on my way to the game. Back then you’d just eat crap and deal with it.”

Men over boys

Boyd has some advice for today’s young hopefuls, based on his own experiences.  

“I always tell people now that the best thing they can do is play football games,” says the Burnley man. “Lots of players are playing academy football but if you can play proper men’s football straight away [that’s ideal].

“I did that from 17 to 21 and it was a great experience; I’d rather have done that than played with the U21s and U23s like now. I learned so much more, and I’d advise anyone to do that.  

“You just can’t ever give up, because if you’re good enough then someone’s going to spot you. I think only two of our team got taken on in the YTS and it’s so easy to get filtered out; hardly any of them are playing football now. if you just stay strong, keep believing and work hard then you’ll get spotted.”

Watch the latest instalment of FourFourTwo Films, Non-League to Premier League, on FourFourTwo’s YouTube now! Just hit play on the video below to see the documentary, featuring interviews with George, Michail Antonio, Andre Gray and many more