Most people know that quite a lot of class players who have had fantastic careers have played in Non-League at some point and today we are going to look at some. Some have gone on to play for England and some have won the Premier League.
10) Jimmy Bullard - Dartford
Jimmy Bullard has had two spells at Non-League sides. He started at Dartford for a year and then went on to Gravesend & Northfleet where he played 30 times. He had a rather successful career peaking at Peterborough United, Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Hull City. He never got to play for his country but had a great career.
9) Ollie Watkins - Weston Super Mare
This is a quite well known one. He started his career at Exeter City but had a stint at Weston Super Mare for a one season loan. He played 24 games and scored 10 and was then drafted into the Exeter City first team where he thrived and earned a move to Brentford. He was with the Bees for 3 years and guided them to a play-off final. He then got a move to Premier League Aston Villa for a club record fee of £28 million. He has since played and scored for England as well as scoring 29 for Aston Villa so far.
8) Callum Wilson - Kettering Town
He has played for two Non-League sides and he played for Kettering 17 times and Tamworth 3 times. He scored for both but he was at Coventry City to start and got his breakthrough to AFC Bournemouth where he played 171 times and scored 61. He earned a big move to Newcastle following Bournemouth's relegation where he has so far played 41 and scored 18. He also has played for England and grabbed one goal on the way.
7) Danny Ings - Dorchester Town
Danny Ings had a small loan to Dorchester Town where he played 9 times and scored 4. He was re-called and went back to Bournemouth. He played his best games at Burnley and Southampton. He played for Liverpool but rarely played. He currently plays for Aston Villa and has been ok but has had a few injuries. He has played for England 3 times and scored once.
6) Tyrone Mings - Chippenham Town
Tyrone Mings started career off at Non-League side Yate Town but never played. However he did play for Chippenham Town and he got a big move to Ipswich Town. He spent 3 years there and then moved to AFC Bournemouth (which seems to be a common theme). He was there for four years but rarely played due to injury. He was loaned out to Aston Villa and it was made permanent after he was popular at Villa Park. He is now the captain of Aston Villa in the Premier League. He has represented England 16 times and scored once. He has also played in the Euros.
5) Michail Antonio - Tooting & Mitcham
The Jamaican international Michail Antonio started off his career at Tooting & Mitcham FC in 2008 and had another spell in 2009. He scored 7 goals in 9 games and was quickly picked up by Reading. He is now a regular in the Jamaica national team and is regarded as one of the best strikers in the Premier League for West Ham.
4) Chris Smalling - Maidstone United
Chris Smalling surprisingly kicked off his career with Non-League Maidstone United. He played a dozen times before moving away to Fulham where he only played a few times. He got his big move to Manchester United in 2010 and he was most successful and United. He played a grand total of 206 times for United cementing his place in their first team. He then moved away to Serie A side Roma where he has played 64 times so far. He has also played for England 31 times.
3) Jarrod Bowen - Hereford United
Yet again another player starting at a Non-League side. Here Jarrod Bowen started at Hereford United and where he only played 8 times but he was snatched by Hull City. He was fantastic at Hull and he played for the Tigers for 6 years where he played 124 and scored 52. He got a big move to West Ham for around £18 million. He has hit a particular purple patch lately where he has been on great form.
2) Jordan Pickford - Darlington
He is another example of how some strong loan spells can do it all for your career. He was at Sunderland and had multiple loan spells before he cracked into the first team. Two of these loans consisted of a loan to Darlington where he played 17 times and a loan to Alfreton Town where he played 12 times. He signed for Everton where he has since played 168 times. He is also an England regular since 2016 and he has played 42 times.
1) Jamie Vardy - Fleetwood Town
Now here we have the most famous former Non-League player. He has played over half of his career in Non-League. He was with Stocksbridge Park Steels playing part time and getting paid a minor amount. He was then picked up by Halifax Town where he was then picked up by National League Fleetwood Town. He had a great year and was scooped by Leicester when he was 29 in an almighty risk where they spent £1 million on him. He has then flourished with Leicester City in the Premier League. He has since won the Premier League with Leicester, broken the record for most Premier League goals in a row and won the 2019/20 Golden boot scoring 23. He never intended to get this far as he was a part timer and just playing for fun. He has also now played for England.
Photo courtesy of Leicester City website