The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 13 of 25
From Peterborough United to Nottingham Forest and back again, this former Stevenage winger was yet to prove himself at Championship level until this season. Now, John Verrall says, George Boyd is proving himself at the perfect time for the Posh.
George Boyd (Peterborough United)
When George Boyd, Aaron McLean and Craig Mackail-Smith arrived on the scene at Peterborough United, they came as non-league gambles – the flag-bearers of the new Darragh MacAnthony era.
In the end, Keith Alexander, manager of The Posh at the time, could hardly have picked three better players. Yet, while Mackail-Smith showed unbelievable commitment and work-rate and McLean had exceptional power and drive, it was Boyd that showed himself to be the magician. The one with the guile, the creativity and the technique. Four and a half years ago, Boyd was the one of the trio that was destined for the biggest and best things. He was the one going to the top. Now, however, he is the only one left at London Road.
Go back to Boyd’s first seasons in a Posh shirt and there are still a number of League One and League Two defenders untangling their legs from the chaos he had caused. “The White Pele”, as he was christened, had left them bamboozled; pulling off tricks and skills that few players can even think about. Boyd was a special talent.
After three and a half seasons of impressing in a faltering Posh team at Championship level, his big move finally came. It had been inevitable. Peterborough United could not keep hold of a player of this quality forever. He deserved his transfer and Nottingham Forest came calling. The Reds were in the hunt for promotion when they took Boyd on loan with the option to turn it into a permanent deal.
However, his chance came and went. Boyd played in a system at Forest which relied heavily on pace from the wings and a counter-attacking style. Billy Davies didn’t quite understand, or want to adapt, to allow Boyd to shine. Sprinting is not Boyd’s game which, in an era where pace has become such a key attribute, makes it even more impressive that he has made such an impact. When you are as quick in the mind as Boyd, it doesn’t matter.
The failure of the move did seem to knock Boyd’s confidence. He came back to London Road and lacked a spark, a moment of magic, the ability to bring a collective gasp from the stadium through one bit of skill. He wasn’t the same player. Gary Johnson tried and failed to bring him back to his best. This wasn’t Boyd. In fact, new signings such as Lee Tomlin were stealing the plaudits away from him.
But since Darren Ferguson’s return, the former Stevenage man has been reborn. His position may have changed but Boyd is gradually finding his feet again. The feet that made him the most desired player in the Football League a few years ago. The feet that made him the white Pele.
He has also added things to his game that weren’t there before. He has become one of the most vocal members of an inexperienced Peterborough United side and introduced a defensive side to his play. Where Boyd may have pulled out of a tackle before, knowing it was not his strength, he now works hard to track back when his tricks don’t work. Indeed, he has become one of the hardest workers in the team.
Mackail-Smith, McLean and Boyd: the truth is the three will always be considered one at London Road. They were the trinity, a triangle that slotted together perfectly. But George Boyd is now part of a diamond at Peterborough United and is coping perfectly well.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.