By Rob Cornell
George Oakley has proved that being prepared to "get out of your comfort zone" can lead to success away from Wimbledon.
The former Dons striker certainly didn't take the easy option last summer with a move north of the border and he impressed enough in a trial to be offered a deal by Scottish Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A year later, George believes it has been the making of him, both on and off the pitch.
"It was heartbreaking when I left, because I'd been at the club since I was 12 and it's always been a part of me," said George. "Every club releases players, but you can't give up. If you want to look at me for example, I didn't know I'd get this opportunity. I did and you've just got to take it. Get out of your comfort zone and just enjoy your football.
"Don't walk out of here with your head down, walk out of here and prove a point. Think to yourself, 'I am good enough'. You could be back here in a couple of years or you could be in the same league, playing against Wimbledon. That's football! It's a short career and it can flip on a coin, but you've just got to keep positive.
"That's my advice to anyone, as football is a short career. Sometimes opportunities don't come along very often and you've just got to take it and experience it. I've gone up there and luckily it's gone well. It could have gone badly, but luckily it didn't and I'm enjoying it.
"It's been really good. It took me a while to settle in, I'm not going to lie. It was the first time living by myself, doing everything by myself, and becoming an adult in the world, but my first year has been a very good experience and I've really enjoyed it."
George finished top scorer in his first season for Caley Thistle and played a major role in securing the Scottish Challenge Cup title, but his old club Wimbledon still has a special place in his heart.
"It's really good to see Wimbledon survive another season in League One," added George, who returned to watch the Dons against Bury. "I send a text message to Dad about how the Dons are doing every weekend. It's good that they've stayed up because it would have been a real shame if this club had gone down. They are where they need to be in League One.
"I've seen the pictures of the new stadium designs online and it's ongoing. It's another step forward for the club in the right direction. I've grown up with this club and the club going in the right direction is just fantastic. It's a bit weird as I was at this club from a young age and it's been the first year of my playing career I haven't been here. It's nice to come back and see everyone and have conversations with people I haven't seen in a while."
George is also delighted with the further progress made by his good friends Will Nightingale and Egli Kaja, with both having made more first-team appearances since he left.
"It's good to see people doing well. From what I've heard and what I've seen, Egli has changed from the player I've known him as, just by gaining in confidence. I spoke to Alan Reeves and he said that is the main thing; having that confidence in yourself and giving your all can take you anywhere, and I'm glad to see how Egli is doing.
"Will wears his heart on his sleeve and he does everything he can for the club. It was unlucky that he got injured and ended the season not playing, but Will is always positive and he always gives 100 per cent. I'm sure he will be back as strong as ever."