ALWAYS and forever, up the U's.

Dion George's personal wishes for me ended thus, as his brother and beloved Colchester United custodian, Shamal, meanwhile jumped over Hadrian's Wall to Livingston.

He heads, feet first, into the next chapter of what's becoming an already distinguished goalkeeping career.

"The club will always have a special place in his and our family's hearts," Dion told me, while also thanking myself and many other like-minded white 'n' blue souls for an obvious groundswell of support he's had, while stylishly transforming himself from keen understudy and into undisputed first-choice.

He leaves Colchester as reigning fans' Player of the Year and with a certain deserved aura around those golden gloves.


Livingston confirmed as much at his unveiling in Scotland, saying he's producing some of the best statistical displays between sticks across European football entirely, for his age.

Ousting Dean Gerken here initially was no mean feat, excelling in his absence later proved an even better showcasing of his talent.

All that didn't help soothe bruises of his departure, particularly mine at the time: I felt a special affinity with Sham, sitting almost directly behind his net in my seat. I'm sure many did.

One online meme last season joked: If he saw the Titanic sinking, Shamal George would've saved it. Quite.

Much credit for his impressive rise from a nomadic existence, first at Liverpool, then afterwards Carlisle and Tranmere, into credible keeper must go to our goalie coach, Darren Smith. Perfect foils.

"They're always having a kiss and a cuddle; I get worried about them!"a mutual friend, Kevin, routinely told us of an inseparable relationship between both, during some long and winding away trips.


It's a bond that certainly paid dividends for United, as he established himself.

Seldom does goal-saving get such acclaim in football, a sport obsessed with simply scoring them; I'm sure Darren's feeling delighted as well as a sense of empty-nest syndrome at these achievements.

Shamal's the first player since Karl Duguid leaving to make me openly shed some tears. I don't mind confessing that in print. You secretary sometimes hope your heroes will stay, forever. Yes, his contract was waning: but, still.

This exit means he somewhat morphs back into more mortal in my eyes, although sharing pride in those headline-making performances for the U's with his loved ones at games is something I'll never forget. That, and last season's seven league clean sheets.

Dion's first words to me in person, were: "Shamal: he's the best keeper in League Two."

We met by chance in a confused moment, where I imagined them as one and the same George, at a pre-match food kiosk, up North.

He's the spitting image of his brother to untrained eyes, which I'd quickly found out, to our shared amusement.

It's a mark of his family's class that they subsequently kept in touch and arranged to sit with us during some forthcoming matches.


Dion, who says he's not an emotional guy by nature, freely admits that watching Shamal step onto the pitch gives him goosebumps and explained this of his brother's onward journey: "I didn't think I've ever been prouder of anything, or anyone, in my life."

The pair will probably meet more frequently now in future, since his new base is likely closer to their Liverpool home than it was in Essex.

The fixture computer's threw Livingston together against Glasgow Rangers for Shamal's debut: not a bad first opponent to face as brothers in arms, at his new team.

What's clear from our closing exchanges is the esteem with which the entire George household carries Colchester United.

An uprooting with strong farewells reminded me of the time midfielder Neil Danns, also a crowd-pleasing player, too left us fondly.

Danns logged onto the club's official messageboard to wish us well for the future himself, by his own hand: it's a gesture that's still remembered, appreciated and talked about, years later by faithful.


I've never had a meaningful next of kin connection to someone playing for us, making this sliding doors scenario pretty bittersweet.

If you've ever thought meeting your idols is a timewaste, do reconsider.

Just knowing the George clan would think to contact myself specifically, especially right at the flagship moment our erstwhile stopper is upping sticks across the country and moving on, means so much: "You're one of life's good guys, Matt," Dion adds, before disappearing to post an update of Shamal's new snazzy kit colours.

I, of course, try not to look, while still marvelling at what wonderful words they've had to say.

Best keeper in the league? Very probably. But, and this is perhaps equally as important after everything his family did to make me feel so welcome, an even better man.