That is praise indeed from a manager who has brought through the likes of Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Harry Kewell amongst others.
Thelwell, just 20, breezed through his introduction into the Premiership big time against the might of Liverpool in Sunday’s memorable win at the Lane. With fit-again Ledley King, also 20, he shone like a beacon on the left side of a central defensive trio against seasoned internationals Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.
George has now blooded King, Thelwell and Luke Young (back in November 1998) as players who have risen through the ranks as well as the likes of paid-for young talent Matthew Etherington, Simon Davies, Gary Doherty and Dave McEwen.
And they may not be the last. “I won’t be afraid to put them in and these two are good enough,” said George. “They deserve it. Last year Ledley looked an outstanding prospect, played against Derby but picked up an injury and that held him back.
“I see Ledley as a midfielder. He’s tall, he’s got presence, he’s very, very good on the ball and I prefer him in midfield. I know he plays at the back for England — but what do England know?
“The boy Thelwell has trained with me for a while now and he’s been outstanding. He’s got better and better. He’s a defender who likes to defend and that’s a rarity these days.
“The boy’s a winner, a natural winner and I can see that in him. He’s got the winning mentality and I can see it already. That’s important, especially to play in England.
“There are two things I look for in footballers — technical ability and a winning mentality and that boy has got the winning mentality, now we have to see if he’s got the technical ability to go with it.
“He’s a winner and it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’ve got that you’ve got it.”
Thelwell will now be hoping for another chance to shine on the big stage against Leicester City on Saturday. He looks like having a good chance with Young now injured but George was keeping his cards close to his chest.
To listen to George's press conference in full, click here
By Paul Miles
George Graham has described Alton Thelwell as a ‘natural winner’.