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Ross County full back George Harmon reminisces about going up against England World Cup stars Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden

By Alasdair Fraser

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George Harmon spent his youth career trying to shackle future superstars like England World Cup hero Bukayo Saka.

But for all the glamour of West Brom’s academy set-up, the Ross County defender insists it was a year with humble Oxford City that made him as a player.

The semi-professional National League South outfit rescued the young full-back from the scrapheap after he was dumped by the Baggies in August last year.

After the cosseted academy environment, a season of raw and gritty men’s non-league football was a culture-shock to Harmon and sink or swim in career terms.

George Harmon is thriving in Dingwall after rejection by West Brom. Picture: Ken Macpherson
George Harmon is thriving in Dingwall after rejection by West Brom. Picture: Ken Macpherson

In 43 appearances, with seven goals to boot last season, he rose to the challenge, winning the supporters’ player of the year award before landing a full-time deal with the Staggies.

Since recovering from a hamstring tear that sidelined him through September and much of October, Harmon has been on fire for Malky Mackay’s Premiership side.

England’s involvement in the Qatar World Cup has rekindled memories of his youth career lately.

“There are a few lads with England I came up against in the academies – Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka to name a couple,” Harmon said.

“I played against these guys pretty much once a month in the big academy tournaments.

“It’s a little bit weird to see the different directions various players have gone in the game, although you could always tell they had that quality about them.

“For all the great grounding West Brom gave me, Oxford was massive for me. It was my first taste of men’s football and a big change from West Brom in the Championship.

“I knew I had to express myself and put a stamp on the team.

“The manager, owners and fans down there were really good to me and, like Ross County, gave me an opportunity I did my best to repay them for.

“It wasn’t nice to leave West Brom, but it is good to step up and prove people wrong over some of the decisions that were made.

“I’ve stood firm in my belief in my own ability, but to get the move here was really good for my confidence. It wasn’t just me – there were loads of lads released – but it is difficult, then, trying to get a move off very little experience in men’s football.

“You need a team to take a gamble on you and thankfully Oxford gave me that platform to move on.”

Harmon, who heads to sunshine training in southern Spain with the County squad on Sunday, is optimistic for challenges ahead.

“Hopefully we can carry on with the quality of performances we’ve been producing recently,” he said.

“We believe on our day we can compete with anyone in the league. We feel we have the opportunity to really start moving up the table.”

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