Welcome to our latest addition to the website where each month we'll be interviewing members of Mick's first team squad. We kick off with the club's longest serving player George Gould, a player who rose through the youth teams at Windsor & Eton FC to become a firm fan's favourite at Windsor FC.
When you look back at the history of both Windsor & Eton FC and Windsor FC, many players stand out in terms of their commitment and loyalty, but few can compete with the loyalty and commitment shown by our 21 year old striker, ever since he first pulled on a shirt at Stag Meadow. "To be honest," said George. "It means a lot to me to play for Windsor FC. I grew up watching Windsor & Eton and playing for my home town team means a huge amount to me."
Having progressed from the Windsor & Eton youth team, an 18 year old George made his debut for the first team as a substitute in a Southern Premier Division game away at Bedford Town, under the guidance of manager Dave Mudge. "To get an opportunity as an 18 year old to play in the Southern Premier Division was fantastic. The standard of football was high, and you would get a lot of confidence playing with, and against, players of that standard."
The joy of being picked in the first team was short lived, as in February 2011 Windsor & Eton FC was wound up in the high court. "It was hard. No one knew what to do, or where to go. As an 18 year old, it was hard, as you don't have the reputation and managers don't know of you and how you play."
A call from Steve Hale, an ex-member of Mudge's management team, saw George make the move to Northwood. "I signed for Northwood but I didn't enjoy it at all. The travelling was hard and I didn't know anyone there apart from Steve Hale."
In the summer of 2011, George took no hesitation in making a return to Stag Meadow following the formation and birth of Windsor FC. "There was no hesitation. I knew I just wanted to play for Windsor. It was a step down in terms of the level, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do."
Keith Scott was appointed Windsor FC's first manager, but things didn't start smoothly for George when he was told during pre-season that his future lay away from being a striker. "Keith told me straight away that he didn't see me a striker. He thought I wasn't strong enough or good enough to compete as a striker at Combined Counties level. I can't say I wasn't gutted."
But rather than sulk, George fought for his place. Scott thought George would be more capable at right back. "I was a young lad who just wanted to play football, so I got my head down and got on with it and it worked out for me."
George went on to make 13 starts (and 12 substitute appearances) in his first full season of men's football, as the side finished its first season as runners-up to champions Guildford City.
"We should definitely have won the league that first season, but we just went into games against lower placed teams with the wrong mentality. We had such a good team we just thought we could beat anyone, but we got complacent and dropped silly points, which ended up costing us the title."
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the title, George looked forward to the following season with optimism. "At the end of the season Keith told me I was going to be his first choice right back and I was excited about the season to come."
However, upon arrival at the early pre-season sessions, Scott had signed James Tripp who was to become his first choice right back. "It was hard, but as a player you can't dwell on it."
A month in to the 2012/13 season and with the team top of the table, the players and management were called into a meeting where they were informed that the playing budget was going to be withdrawn, in its entirety.
When Windsor FC was formed, founding director Kevin Stott had set a competitive first team budget on the back of a business plan that showed self-sustaining income streams being generated through the installation and hiring out of artificial 3G Pitches, however despite everyone's best efforts the club still had some way to go before it could realistically expect these pitches and income streams to be in place and so the first team budget was removed.
Unsurprisingly, manager Keith Scott and his assistant Jim Melvin resigned and all of the first team squad chose to leave Stag Meadow.
"No one in the dressing room had expected the budget cut and none of the players hesitated in being vocal that they were going to leave."
The players and management agreed to stay on for one more week to play out an FA Cup game at home Didcot Town, but immediately afterwards all of the players moved on, except two, George and Ben Harris.
"I decided straight away that I didn't want to leave. As soon as the Didcot game was over all of the squad went to a local pub, where we said our goodbyes, but as soon as I came out of the pub, I texted Kevin Stott and said that I know everyone is leaving, but I just want to let you know that I'm not leaving. I love the club, I love the fans and I want to stay. I thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn't about money for me. Ben was the same and fair play to him, because he got a few very good offers. Lazza also came straight back when he heard that Keith wasn't going to be manager any longer."
Mick Woodham was appointed as Keith's replacement, an appointment that was welcomed by George. "I'd played under Mick in my youth team days and also in Sunday football. It was a relief because he knew what I could do. He knew he could rely on me and that I wouldn't take the pi$$, so it was great that he was appointed."
The next two months though were some of George's toughest in football. "We lost our first game 8-2 and then we kept on losing. It was hard, especially having been part of Keith's team where we had been so solid at the back. But then we got a draw and that settled us down. More players came in and we began gelling really quickly. Confidence spread around the team and that brought a special team spirit and as long as you have team spirit you'll win a lot more games than you lose."
The transformation of the team was huge. Results picked up and the team went on long unbeaten winning runs and things changed for the better for George as a long term injury to Ben Harris, brought about an opportunity to prove himself as a forward and put to bed the feedback from Keith Scott that he wasn't good enough to be a successful striker at this level.
"Ben unfortunately got injured and Mick needed a striker so I asked him if I could fill in for him and prove I could play up front at this level."
The moved worked out as George ended the season with 16 goals, most of which were scored inside the last four months of the season following the switch to playing up front.
"It was great to be scoring goals and enjoying my football a lot more."
One of those goals however, didn't come as a striker, as on the 6th April 2013, George pulled on the goalkeeper's jersey following an injury on the morning of the game to first choice keeper Rob Bullivant. "I'd not played in goal since I was a kid, when I had a season playing in goal. Bully got injured and Mick phoned me and just said he needed my help and could I play in goal. I wasn't nervous at all, I felt relaxed as soon as I started to warm up."
In the last minute of that game, with the team trailing 1-0, keeper George ran up field for a 90th minute corner and headed the resulting cross past the Horley keeper and into the top corner of the net. "There was no way I was going to miss that ball!" Cue mass celebrations!
The team eventually finished in a credible 6th position, just four places below where Keith Scott's side had finished 12 months earlier.
Looking at this current season and George and the side have their sights firmly set on lifting some silverware at the end of the season, with the league the team's priority. "This season is all about winning the league. We want to win it, together with the two cups we're still in. We're desperate for success and to win something. The way we're playing at the moment is fantastic. We're now showing just how good we are going forward and with players starting to come back from injury we now have a steady back four and midfield. As long as we can keep everyone fit I think we'll have every chance. We know we need to catch South Park but our team spirit is amazing and we're going to give it everything we've got."
From a personal perspective, aside from lifting some silverware, George is determined to finish the season with at least 20-25 goals to his name. "I didn't start this season off as well as I'd hoped to but I'd be disappointed if I don't finish with that amount of goals to my name. But, having said that, I will always put my shift in up front, and I will happily set up goals for others, as long as we are winning games of football that's all I'm concerned about."
In three years of senior football George has experienced probably more lows than what many players would ever experience in an entire career: his club goes bankrupt, he gets dropped, he's gets wrongly told he's not a good enough striker, he gets told a playing budget has been cut, yet his commitment and love for Windsor FC has always remained and under the management of Mick is now getting the rewards for the commitment and loyalty he has shown the club.
But what forms this love affair with Windsor FC? "I just love it here. I love the atmosphere, everyone is so friendly. There will not be a better team spirit than ours in this league. We're all friends. The supporters club put on great events and Ben, Lazza and I will always stay for them and have a laugh with the supporters. No one has supporters as good as ours. As players we are well looked after at this club. We get cooked meals after a game, we have friendly bar staff, a physio who will always be there for you, someone like Malcolm who is always around to help you out and that all counts for a lot. It's just a great place to be and play football."
I think I speak on behalf of everyone when saying that we look forward to George fulfilling his immense potential for many years to come at Stag Meadow.
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