They say dream big in life, so it’s an ambition for more than few non-league footballers to play in the Premier League.
Going from relative rags to riches in English football takes application, dedication and a slice of luck but it can be done. These three players who are all currently in the Premier League are proven examples of that.
Climbing the football pyramid is nothing new, particularly for strikers. We could just as easily name drop Jermaine Beckford, Grant Holt, Danny Ings or Callum Wilson at this point, but Jamie Vardy went further than most non-league frontmen.
Born in Sheffield and failing to make the grade at Wednesday, Vardy played non-league football for Stocksbridge Park Steelers and Halifax Town before firing Fleetwood Town into the EFL. He then moved to Leicester City and the rest is history.
Vardy not only went on to play for England at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup but his 24 goals in 2015-16 took the Foxes to an against all odds Premier League title triumph. He is on course to surpass that tally under Brendan Rodgers this season.
Although Leicester still have some way to go to catch Liverpool in this season’s title race, Vardy is now even-money favourite in the football betting on who will be top goalscorer in the Premier League. A prolific calendar year of 2019 gives him leading claims of the Golden Boot.
Defender Tyrone Mings was on both Southampton and Bristol Rovers’ books as a boy, but started his senior career with Yate Town and Chippenham Town in non-league. While playing for his hometown club, Ipswich Town scouted him and then-manager Mick McCarthy had him at Portman Road on trial.
It proved an inspired signing. After proving he could cut it at Championship level, Mings was brought to the Premier League by Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe only to suffer a career-threatening knee injury.
After going on loan to Aston Villa to help revive his career, he was part of the 2019 Championship play-off winning side that beat Derby County under Dean Smith. Regular Premier League football and an England debut followed for Mings, who could follow in Vardy’s footsteps and represent his country at the Euros.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was let go from Ipswich’s academy and played for Suffolk side Bury Town before joining Charlton Athletic. While with the Addicks he had four loan spells in non-league at Harrow Borough, Welling United, Cambridge United and Aldershot Town.
Similar spells in League Two with York City and Bury followed, so Pope really had to have the patience of a saint before getting his breakthrough at Charlton. That journey wasn’t lost on Sean Dyche who brought him to Turf Moor.
Even then, Pope had to wait his turn to show what he could do in the Premier League. An untimely injury to Tom Heaton gave him his big break in the top flight and he was voted Clarets’ player of the year by fans and fellow players alike. Pope has since played for England.