Origin story of 'The Fridge': How George Edmundson overcame rejections to become a wanted man

George Edmonson at Cambridge.

George Edmundson at Cambridge. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

George Edmundson is a man in form for Ipswich Town. STUART WATSON spoke to the defender about his journey to this point and ambitions for the future.....

George Edmundson likes his nickname 'The Fridge'. It's a fitting reminder of the hard work and good fortune which has led him to this point.

The moniker was first bestowed upon him by Rangers fans in the summer of 2019.  

"I’m quite broad and I think that kit showed it up even more," he says.

“Martyn Waghorn had been at Rangers before me and he was called ‘The Fridge’ up there, so I think the fans just passed it on to me. Twitter went bonkers about it after a pre-season game and it’s stuck ever since. 

“I don’t mind it. I’ve been called worse things!"

Ironically, labels previously attached to the centre-back were 'too small' and 'too weak'. That was always the feedback during a constant stream of rejections. Even Oldham, the club who provided the springboard for his professional career, initially released him.

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"Twice," interjects the 24-year-old, with a wry smile.

“As a kid I went on trial to Everton, (Manchester) United, (Manchester) City, Bolton, Accy... I’m trying to think where else... Birmingham... 

“When I was younger I was always the smallest. It was always either ‘you’re not big enough’ or ‘you’re good, but you’re not as good as what we’ve got’. 

“Honestly, I was let go by every club you can think of in the north west. 

“I was playing Sunday League right up until I was Under-16s. At the same time I used to go to a shadow squad at Man City - you know the ones where you’re not good enough for the actual U16s team – and it was really good, to be fair. 

“The aim of it was obviously to get you into City, but if you couldn’t then they wanted you to go on to an Accrington, Oldham, Bury, Burnley or wherever. 

“One of the coaches there ended up going to Accrington and he took me along with him. It was the first ever time I got signed. I was obviously buzzing. And then after two weeks they let me go because they’d given all the scholars out. 

"I was thinking ‘there’s not much point anymore, I’m nearly 16 and still not been signed'. I was just going to go back to playing Sunday League with my mates and doing a bit of college footy."

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester.

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

But then another lifeline. The coach who had taken Edmundson to Accrington, Simon Cooper, moved jobs again. This time to Oldham.

“They’d already started pre-season and, again, all the scholarships had been handed out," explains Edmundson.

"Luckily for me though, one of the lads there, Ellis Gordon, who is actually a really nice lad, wasn’t showing the best attitude football-wise at that time. He was turning up late and what have you, so after two weeks they let him go. Coops rang me and said ‘there’s a space for a scholarship, do you want it?’

“I remember that really well. It was a Thursday and I was playing my Xbox. He’s obviously called my mum, then my mum came in and told me and I went and signed the next day.  

“I went in and met Tony Philliskirk, the youth team manager, and they were asking for my bank details. I couldn’t believe you got paid, even if it was hardly anything. I thought it was the best thing on earth getting paid to play football!"

And so, lift-off, right? Not quite. Remember, Edmundson did tell us he was released by Oldham twice. 

“When I came towards the end of that two-year scholarship, they originally told me I wasn’t going to get a pro deal and they were going to release me," he explains.

“We got into the National Final which, for Oldham, was the best youth cup competition we could win outside of the FA Youth Cup. They’d given all the professional contracts out, I wasn’t one who got one, and then this final came around. 

“I could have easily just said ‘I’m not playing’, but I thought ‘do you know what, I might not ever play at this level again, I might as well play in it, I could win something’. 

“We beat MK Dons 4-0 and the next day they decided to give me and another lad a contract. Obviously I took it and never looked back."

This is the point in the origin story where Edmundson begins to become 'The Fridge'.

George Edmundson applauding fans after the game.

George Edmundson will hopefully play the vast majority of Ipswich Town's games in 2022. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“When Oldham initially said that I wasn’t getting a professional contract it was ‘you’re a good player, blah, blah, blah, but you’re not physically big enough’," he recalls. 

“They said if I came up against somebody like, I don’t know, using recent examples, Akinfenwa, or Sam Vokes, they’ll bully you. And probably at the time they were right. I probably wasn’t physically ready. 

“When they did change their mind, they said ‘look you need to beef up a bit’. So I was in the gym every day that summer and they basically just fed me weights!"

Further physical conditioning came via progressive loan spells at non-league clubs.

"Ramsbottom were bottom of EvoStick Premier League," he recalls. "I was 17/18 when I went there and I just got battered for three months. I was up against big old men who'd probably had a bad week at work and they’d just absolutely nail you. 

“It was the same at Alfreton (National League North), with a bit more quality, and then I was at Fylde in the Conference. Without those loans, especially the Ramsbottom one, I wouldn’t have all the little game know-hows I have for playing in those type of games today."

When Edmundson returned to Boundary Park, he continued to learn off some Football League stalwarts.

Derby County's George Edmundson (right) warms up on the pitch ahead of during the Sky Bet Championsh

George Edmundson (right) enjoyed a loan spell at Derby County under the management of Wayne Rooney. - Credit: PA

"When I was a first and second year pro I learned loads off Anthony Gerrard (the former Cardiff and Huddersfield defender) - he was brilliant for me," he explains.

“Then, when I came back from the loans, I was lucky to play with Peter Clarke (the former Blackpool, Southend, Huddersfield and Bury defender). That season I had with him he did so much for me. He’s a legend of the game, is still playing now (for Tranmere at the age of 40) and is probably in the best condition he’s ever been! 

“He’s not the fastest or the biggest, but he was Oldham’s best player. Me being next to him I learned so much off him. 

“Both him and Anthony, I can’t thank them enough."

You can't talk to Edmundson without referencing the fact that he has played under the management of three modern day English football icons in Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.

Scholes was Oldham boss for just seven matches. Gerrard signed Edmundson for Rangers. Rooney was the man who took him to Derby County on loan in the second half of last season.

Rangers' Manager Steven Gerrard (right) celebrates with George Edmundson at the end of the Ladbrokes

Rangers' Manager Steven Gerrard (right) celebrates with George Edmundson at the end of the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. - Credit: PA

Edmundson, who was just eight when those Premier League superstars were playing at the 2006 World Cup, reflects: "I’m a City fan, but you’d go to the field with your mates and they were the players you’d want to re-enact. The amount of times I’ve tried to do that Wayne Rooney volley against Newcastle is a joke! I’ve obviously never done it! 

“They were all really good with me. They pull you for little chats and because of who they are and what they’ve done in the game you respect them instantly. Straight away you listen. They might say it in a different way, but what they say is similar. 

"It has been a bit surreal playing under them all, but it’s something I’m proud of."

Attending a party that broke coronavirus lockdown rules in November 2020 effectively ended Edmundson's yet-to-take-off Rangers career. Rooney wanted to sign him permanently at Derby, after the Rams beat the drop in the Championship, but financial restraints there stopped that from happening. Ipswich, thanks to the club's new ambitious ownership, were able to beat other second-tier suitors to his signature, handing him a four-year deal.

“When I was playing at the bottom of the EvoStick Premier for Ramsbottom, I probably never thought I’d be playing League One week-in, week-out," said Edmundson.

“I try and take it game-by-game, but obviously the end goal is to try and play in the Premier League at least once. Hopefully I can achieve it, but I know it’s easier said than done." 

Judging by his impressive start to life with the Blues, a player who became accustomed to rejections in the early years is likely to be a wanted man over the coming years.

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Ipswich celebrate Wes BurnsÕ goal at Gillingham.

Ipswich celebrate Wes BurnsÕ goal at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It's hard not to be a little bit excited following last weekend's 4-0 win at Gillingham.

A gritty 1-0 home win against high-flying Wycombe had been followed up by some sexy football at Priestfield.

Two games, two wins and two clean sheets under confident but considered new young boss Kieran McKenna. The gap to the play-off places has been cut to eight points. And there are still 63 to play for.

“I know it’s only been two games, but I think you can see by the way the lads are playing that there’s a new confidence about us - everybody looks engaged," said Edmundson.

"He’s got everybody on board and singing off the same hymn sheet. I feel that there’s a real togetherness.

“Look at Conor (Chaplin) coming on the other day. I think I can say this - he's probably annoyed that he’s not starting. But he’s come on and there’s no sulking from him. He’s got his head down, he’s running after loose balls and putting himself about. That happened from all the subs. Joe Pigott put himself about, working dead hard, Kayden Jackson too... Everyone."

Conor Chaplin and George Edmundson are Ipswich Town's newest signings

Mark Ashton believes signing Conor Chaplin and George Edmundson was a 'tipping point' in Ipswich Town's transfer window. - Credit: ITFC/Richard Calver

On the freedom to bring the ball out from a back three, Edmundson enthused: “I like it. I made my debut in a back three for Oldham. I feel like it’s one of those formations where, if you get it right, it’s unplayable. 

“It’s something we’ve worked on with the new gaffer. If it’s me stepping out, or Woolfy, or JD or Cam or Toto it helps the team. It attracts players to you and then you can give it off to somebody else in more space. It’s all little things that are helping improve the team. Hopefully we can keep doing it."

Ipswich now head to Bolton on Saturday and, once again, they will be backed by big numbers on the road.

"I knew this was a big club that got big home crowds, but I didn't realise how many travelled away," admitted Edmundson. 

“At the start of the season we weren’t doing the best, but we’d go away to Accrington and they'd still be there.

“I know people might think ‘oh, it’s an interview, he’s just saying that’ but the lads do talk about it in the changing rooms. 

“Charlton on a Tuesday night. It’s full. Sunderland... Sold it out. And that’s one hell of a drive. I think we’ve got 800 going to Bolton on Saturday and it takes five hours to get there on a good day!  

“We get 20,000 plus every home game and we’ve not even started this season, really. So it just makes you think if we do get on a good run what they’ll be like."

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Gillingham.

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Asked if he believed this season still had plenty of life left in it, Edmundson replied: “Yeah. I think everybody knows that. But I also know what this league’s like. If you start getting too ahead of yourselves then it can swallow you up.

“Don’t get me wrong, everyone is buzzing, but we’ve just got to take it game-by-game.

“We might concede at the weekend and that would be the first time we’ve conceded under the new manager. How do we deal with that? 

“It’s been a rollercoaster season and getting the back-to-back wins does give us confidence because now we know we can do it. 

“When we do have a set-back, and 100% that will happen at some point in the second half of the season, we can look back on these last two games and think ‘okay, we can get back on it and win the next two’. 

"We've just got to keep improving, learning and trying our best."

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