Jamie Vardy’s astonishing rise to prominence with Leicester City proved that it is never too late for a footballer to make it at the highest level.
The 30-year-old didn’t get his big breakthrough until 2012 with the Foxes, but nobody could have foreseen that he would go on to lift the Premier League trophy and play for England in such a short space of time after that. Vardy’s case is perhaps the most astonishing, but he isn’t the only player to have made the massive step up. Here’s a look at a couple of other non-league strikers who have climbed to the top.
Charlie Austin Charlie Austin’s rise has been fairly similar to Vardy’s, except that the teams he has played for haven’t enjoyed the same success as Leicester.
The sharpshooter was playing non-league football with Kintbury Rangers, Hungerford Town, Thatcham Town, and Poole Town until 2009 when he joined Swindon Town. He made his Premier League debut in 2014-15 with QPR, after having contributed massively to their promotion to the top flight.
Although the London club were relegated, Austin gained recognition, scoring 18 goals in that campaign. The 27-year-old now plays for Southampton and had a strong start to his career at St Mary’s Stadium. Unfortunately, he is out for up to four months now with a shoulder injury, and the forward is sorely missed by the Saints.
The south coast club managed to beat Liverpool in the first leg of their EFL cup semi-final fixture, but bitcoin bet site Sportsbet has them as outsiders at 17/4 to win the second leg at the time of writing.
Troy Deeney Troy Deeney’s boyhood club was Birmingham City, but it was with local rivals Aston Villa that the English striker tried to make a name for himself. He failed to get anywhere at Villa Park though, and joined non-league side Chelmsley Town where he played between 2004 and 2006.
He was close to packing it all in and pursuing a career as a builder when Walsall, who were in League Two at the time, came knocking. After 123 league appearances with the Saddlers Deeney finally attracted interest from clubs in the Championship, and handed in a transfer request.
Two days later, Watford signed him for a fee that rose to £500,000, and Deeney’s salary increased to £6000-a-week from £1,300. Since then Deeney has become the Hornets’ captain and a club legend.
He was crucial in helping the club rise up from the Championship to the top tier, and has also been instrumental in maintaining Watford’s top flight status for the past two seasons. The 28-year-old has scored 94 league goals for the Hornets, and is their fifth highest scorer of all time.
He has thus far failed to earn a call-up for England, but may get the opportunity in the years to come. These players are testament to the fact that non-league players can make their way to the highest level and should never give up.
There are others who have shot to fame as well. Two notable mentions are Gareth McAuley and Chris Smalling, who were both playing in non-league sides before and are now defensive mainstays in the Premier League.