Everybody knows the Jamie Vardy story. The Leicester City striker made the successful step-up from non-league to help fire the Foxes to Premier League glory and the former Halifax and Stocksbridge Park Steels frontman has set a terrific example for every player in the lower echelons of the league pyramid. But which former non-league talents are making a name for themselves higher up the divisions?
Scott Hogan is one of the more recent examples of a player who has climbed up the divisions and has recently been rewarded for his performances in the Championship with a call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad. The striker’s poor injury record has hampered his progress in recent years but it didn’t stop the 24-year-old being linked with a string of Premier League clubs before opting to join Aston Villa. He’d previously played at Stocksbridge Park Steels, Woodley Sports and Ashton United.
Marc Roberts is another player plying his trade in the Midlands with the former Halifax defender starting his career at the now-defunct Wakefield before turning out for Worksop and Buxton. Barnsley eventually took a chance on the 27-year-old and his Championship form was enough to persuade Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp to shell out £3.5 million for his services. He has featured five times for the Blues so far this season and is already becoming a fan favourite.
Roberts’ former Barnsley team-mate Angus McDonald is also a Championship regular who spent many years in non-league, featuring for Salisbury City and Torquay, amongst others, before working his way back into the Football League.
Very few non-league players can claim to have gone on to compete in the Europa League but Ostersund’s success under British coach Graham Potter is likely to see a number of English players feature in the group stage of the competition this season. Jamie Hopcutt is just one of the stars of the Swedish side who have beaten Fola Esch, PAOK and Galatasaray during the qualification period and the 25-year-old has featured heavily.
After coming through the youth system at York City, Hopcutt played for Ossett Town and Tadcaster Albion and also turned out for Whitby Town during a brief loan spell but will now face the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin in Group J. His team-mate Curtis Edwards has played the majority of his career in Scandinavia but did start life at Darlington 1883 and spent a short period at Spennymoor Town.
There were many last-minute moves taking place on Thursday, August 31 as the transfer window closed its doors until January. Jamie Vardy’s Leicester team-mate Riyad Mahrez was one of a number of players featured in Betsafe’s deadline day blog as the football transfer market went into overdrive. Chelsea and Arsenal were rumoured to be sniffing around the winger but the Algerian opted to stay with the Foxes.
Marvin Johnson was one of many former non-league representatives on the move, with the winger securing his transfer to Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee. The 26-year-old had spells at Kidderminster Harriers and Solihull Moors. QPR snapped up David Wheeler from Exeter with Brighton-born play-maker having started his career at Lewes and featuring 70 times for Staines Town. Wheeler appears destined for the top and he is likely to take the Championship in his stride.
Th non-league conveyor belt continues to churn out a number of talented players and it’ll be interesting to see how the likes of David Tarpey (Barnet) and Oliver Hawkins (Portsmouth) fare in the Football League after lighting up the National League in recent months. More players look set to follow in the footsteps of Andre Gray, Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy to the Premier League with an increasing number of scouts visiting non-league grounds each and every matchday as they aim to spot the next big thing.