Persistence pays off for players who went from non-league to the Premier League

Throughout the history of the club, Stow fans have witnessed a number of talented individuals, be it coaches or players, who have managed to build on their impressive results in the non-league game and replicate it higher up the pyramid. For some, their evident talent but also their persistence at trying to make it to the very top resulted in them actually getting there.

Of course, everyone knows the story of Jamie Vardy and his remarkable rise from the non-league game to becoming a Premier League champion with Leicester City, but he isn’t the only semi-professional player who persisted despite various knock-backs and eventually achieved their ambition of playing in the best league in the world. For the current players of Walthamstow – and some of their opponents on a Saturday – although it might feel like they’re stuck in the wilderness at times, it most definitely isn’t the case. In fact, clubs will always search the lower echelons of the English pyramid system as they attempt to find a bargain and unearth a hidden gem. Additionally, many managers of Football League clubs realise the cut-throat environment football is, therefore making it entirely understandable that some potential professionals would fall further down the leagues.

Whatever the reason, there is clearly hope for some of non-league’s most talented players that they too could follow in the footsteps of players like Jamie Vardy. In order to highlight that the former Halifax Town striker’s rise isn’t just a one-off, let’s take a look at some other non-league footballers who simply didn’t stop fighting and eventually achieved their goal of playing in England’s top flight.

Chris Smalling didn’t give up despite Millwall release

There was a time when Chris Smalling was an internet meme that simply wouldn’t go away after a number of notable errors in a Manchester United shirt. What many of the fans ridiculing him probably don’t realise, though, is that Smalling is living the dream after embarking on quite a journey, from non-league obscurity to playing for arguably the biggest club on the planet. Released by Millwall as a youngster, Smalling joined Maidstone United while studying for his A-Levels. Eventually, after a string of impressive performances, Fulham came calling before Sir Alex Ferguson saw something in the defender. Now plying his trade at Roma under Jose Mourinho, Smalling’s rise has been remarkable.

Ian Wright played Sunday League football

Although most people associate him with his punditry skills these days, Ian Wright was a striker who most definitely knew where the goal was. He actually played amateur football until the age of 21, too. While fans of today are discussing extortionate modern-day transfer fees and whether or not the betting odds around the Premier League title race make a flutter on Wright’s beloved Arsenal worth it, the Gunners legend no doubt takes a moment or two to himself on occasions to recall the magnificent journey he has been on in life. A household name, Wright went from playing Sunday League football to signing for Greenwich Borough for £30 a week in 1985, before eventually being snapped up by Crystal Palace. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hammers star Bowen started out at Hereford United

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Arguably one of the Premier League’s best wide men over the last few years, England star Jarrod Bowen made his debut for his local club, Hereford United, aged just 17, before scouts noticed his evident ability and he eventually joined Hull City. Hereford’s financial troubles that eventually led to a winding up order certainly aided his jump up the divisions, with Bowen forced to leave the club and Hull offering him a new home. A player with his evident ability would surely have been snapped up eventually regardless of Hereford’s financial situation, but you just never know. For Bowen, his journey isn’t over yet either, with many West Ham fans tipping him for the very top.

Other players who embarked on a similar journey includes the likes of Michail Antonio (Tooting & Mitcham), Joe Hart (Shrewsbury Town), Ashley Williams (Hednesford Town), Jimmy Bullard (Corinthian, Dartford and Gravesend & Northfleet), and Yannick Bolasie (Hillingdon Borough).

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