By Rob Cornell
Young defender George Marchant has swapped Wimbledon for Colorado after accepting the chance of a lifetime to start a soccer scholarship in America.
Academy Head of Football Mark Robinson had hoped that George would stake a claim for the Under-21s in his final year as a scholar, but then came a call that changed everything.
"We were hoping George would have his last year in the Under-21s to try and earn a pro contract, but he has had an offer he simply could not refuse in America and we can all see why.
"One of his highlights was when he played at left-back against Watford in the FA Youth Cup victory at Vicarage Road. George is a right-back, but he has worked so hard on his left foot that night you would never have known and he set up Alfie Egan's equaliser.
"He was incredibly unlucky not to be selected against Newcastle United in the next round and it was the toughest choice I have ever had to make."
George visited the training ground one last time to say his farewells, before departing to start a new life in America, consisting of a soccer scholarship and mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.
"George is one of life's winners and although we all wish him the best of luck and success, it's a foregone conclusion he is going to do brilliant out there with his football and chosen career of engineering," Mark added.
"If we could bottle his professionalism and attitude and sprinkle it over all our players we really would have the best academy in the country."
"George came into us an under-15 when Aldershot closed their academy and his attitude to learning was second to none. He took absolutely everything on board and attacked his development targets with incredible enthusiasm."
It wasn't just his football skills that grabbed people's attention, as he made local headlines when he left the Royal Grammar School in Guildford with nine A*s from his GCSE results two years ago.
One of George's greatest challenges in his time with the Dons was his recovery from an important operation. A key figure behind George's rehab was Academy Sports Scientist Jenna Richards.
"After a successful year as a first year scholar, contributing to the league and FA Youth Cup run, George missed the majority of his second year whilst recovering from hip surgery," explained Jenna.
"During this period, George worked extremely hard on his rehabilitation, rebuilding his range of movement and strength in the surrounding muscles. He then gradually returned to functional work – building up his running, direction changing, passing and football specific drills. He was then cleared to rejoin training at the end of last season."
Such was George's willingness to support his team-mates during his time out, he would regularly attend the under-18s youth fixtures on cold Saturday mornings and help out on the sidelines - under the watchful eyes of Jenna, who ensured his enthusiasm didn't threaten to jeopardise his comeback at times!
He eventually made a stunning comeback in this year's Academy Richmond Run – claiming fourth place around the seven-mile course recently in a time of 47 minutes and 19 seconds.
George had previously set a new record for the Academy, back in 2015, when he beat all previous notable times - including that of Academy graduate and now first team player Will Nightingale.
"George is an extremely hard working and diligent player, both on and off the pitch. This has shown in his attitude to his rehab, as well as his academic work, which has enabled him to achieve his scholarship to America," said Jenna.
Our photo shows Academy Sports Science and Medicine Manager Jenna Richards with George Marchant (centre) and Head of Football Mark Robinson. All at AFC Wimbledon wish George every success in the future.