Football-mad George ready to live the American dream

BOUND FOR THE USA -- teenage striker George Holloway.
BOUND FOR THE USA -- teenage striker George Holloway.

Living the American dream is not the usual career path for teenage lads from Sutton-in-Ashfield.

But bucking the trend is George Holloway, who has done remarkably well to earn a soccer scholarship at a university in the USA.

Eighteen-year-old George, of Columbia Avenue, flies out to the States on Thursday, August 4 to start a four-year course at the University of Great Falls in Montana.

He hopes to graduate as a professional footballer, but also with the qualifications he needs for a back-up career as a physical education teacher.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said George, son of proud parents Tim and Bev Holloway. “I am really excited and looking forward to it.”

Football-mad George, a former pupil at Ashfield School in Kirkby, grabbed the chance of a scholarship when “it popped up one day on the Internet”.

It was offered by United Sports USA, a sports scholarship consultancy based in Glasgow, who have worked with students from 22 countries across the world since launching in 2009.

“I had to sign up and then go on an assessment day, where I played in a couple of games,” said George. “Video recordings were presented to various colleges and universities in the US, and it went from there.

“I received a few offers and chose the one that I thought was best.”

Great Falls is the third largest city in the state of Montana, which is in the western region of the USA. Boasting 800 students, the university embraces lots of other sports, as well as football.

“What I liked was that it is a sporting academy that only has athletes on the campus,” said George. “The techonology there is incredible and I thought it would benefit me most to progress my career.

“Also, it is only a small university, and the staff were very friendly. I felt really at home.”

The university has its own soccer team, nicknamed the Argonauts, who play in the First Division of the NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Matches start almost as soon as George gets out there, with the first in California.

“The whole experience will help me to see a bit more of the world,” he enthuses. “As well as the matches, there is training three times a day and also my studies as I work towards a physical education degree.

“My main aim is to become a professional footballer, and there is every chance over there. They put so much more money into it than we do over here. But I would also like to be PE teacher. I’ll see how it goes.”

George had to take a rigorous test to measure the levels of his academic skills in English and maths before he was accepted for a place at Great Falls. And he won rich praise from United Sports USA for becoming one of the few teenage footballers in the UK to be successful. Less than 2% of American high-school athletes get college scholarships, and even fewer international students.

“We have worked with George for the last 12 months, and we believe he is a terrific young talent, who will only go from strength to strength,” said a spokeswoman for United Sports, Ruby Ladjanszky.

“The scholarships provide a great life experience, a first-class education, health rewards, both phsyical and mental, and many other benefits.”

Striker George has been playing football since the age of four, growing up with youth teams at Skegby and Teversal, and he refused to let the setback of a broken leg at the age of 13, which kept him out of action for a full year, put him off the game.

He spent two years with the Mansfield Town Academy and last season plundered no fewer than 77 goals in 38 games for AFC Mansfield U18s’ side.

Darren Kelk, a former coach at the Stags academy, was full of praise for George. “I liked him a lot,” recalled Kelk, now a coach with League Two club Barnsley. “He was like a little bull -- a powerhouse, no-nonsense centre-forward, who scored lots of goals

“He perhaps lacked a little technically, but his workrate and work ethic were excellent. I am sure that, with a the right coaching, he can do well.”

As George counts down the days to his dream chance, he is earning extra money to help fund his trip by working for his dad’s confectionery company, Barnard’s, of Alfreton Road, Sutton. He’s also avidly watching every game on TV in the Euro 2016 tournament.

But his mind is very much on Montana and the exciting future that lies ahead of him. “I am so happy with what I have been able to do over the last year,” he said.

“I never thought it would come about. I never thought I would be in this position.”