The success of Jamie Vardy has turned more of a spotlight on non-league football.
Top scorer in the Premier League and now an England player, Vardy’s route to the top tier of English football was via Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town.
A special radio programme will be broadcast tonight, ‘Straight Outta Conference’, on BBC Radio 5 live at 7.30pm and it features Town Luton Manager John Still.
He earned a reputation by spotting talent, as well as leading three different clubs to promotion to the Football League.
John Still has chosen a top 11 players who came from non-league football, with 4 of them going on to play for both Newcastle and England.
His team of 11 are named below but try and have a think of who they might be before you look…
Newcastle of course are a prime example of a club who have almost exclusively looked abroad, rather than the English lower leagues, never mind the fifth tier!
This is what John Still says clubs like Newcastle could be missing out on:
“Jamie Vardy’s not a one-off. But the talent is being missed.
“There’s more out there that deserve a chance. It’s people willing to take that chance.
“Mining a gem from non-league takes hard work. Too many people are looking at DVDs, or using databases such as Wyscout, than doing the hard miles.
“There are players out there – but you have to get out there and watch them. They don’t tell you the strengths and weaknesses the same as if you are there watching, in terms of movement, desire and so on.
“It’s easy to look at a Ronaldo or a Messi or a Neymar or Rooney and say ‘they are a good player’.
“You don’t have to be a great judge to look at them and recognise that.
“It’s looking a bit deeper than that, looking for people that have the ingredients you can work on and develop, and saying to yourself, ‘they have got something’.”
John Still’s top 11 who went from non-league football to the First Division/Premier League, the team they played for in non-league football in brackets:
Joe Hart (Shrewsbury)
Warren Barton (Leytonstone)
Chris Smalling (Maidstone United)
Ashley Williams (Hednesford)
Stuart Pearce (Wealdstone)
Alan Devonshire (Southall)
Terry Hurlock (Leytonstone)
Andy Townsend (Weymouth)
John Barnes (Sudbury)
Ian Wright (Greenwich Boro)
Malcolm MacDonald (Tonbridge Angels)