Every footballer's dream is to play in the Premier League. Some youngsters progress through the youth system at a Premier League club, others are brought in from abroad, however some players make it the harder way, up through the Non League footballing pyramid and progress into the promised land of the Premier League. In the following articles: The Top 5 Non League Footballers and On The Hunt For Jamie Vardy, we have looked at the best players in Non League football and who knows, some of these players may make it into the Premier League at some point in their careers. In this article, we will be looking at 5 players who have played in Non League football and have gone on to feature in the Premier League.
Image credit: Non League Paper
The rise of Jamie Vardy which took him from Non League side Stocksbridge Park Steels to Leicester City, becoming a Premier League winner and England international is without a doubt, one of the best footballing stories when looking at this topic.
However, we will be taking a look at 5 other footballers who achieved the feat of bursting onto the Premier League scene from the English Non League.
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Dan Burn, 28, currently plays for Premier League side Brighton Hove Albion. Dan Burn started his professional career at Darlington, who were then in League Two. Burn went on to make four appearances for the side as a 17 year old however unfortunately for Burn, Darlington were relegated to the Conference. After returning to the Darlington youth team for six months, after the side were relegated, Burn fought his way back into the first team picture and at 18 years old was one of the hottest prospects in Non League football. His manager at the time Mark Cooper stated "If I were a Premier League manager I would sign him straight away, whatever the cost".
At the end of the 2010/11 season, Premier League side Fulham swooped in to sign the talented defender for a fee rumoured to have been around £350,000. After loan spells at Yeovil Town and Birmingham City, Burn made his Premier League debut for Fulham against Arsenal in January 2014- only five years earlier, Burn was working in Asda.
After leaving Fulham, Burn signed for Championship side Wigan Athletic and impressed in his two seasons at the club which prompted a bid from Premier League side Brighton Hove Albion. Dan Burn moved to Brighton Hove Albion for a fee of £3 million and has gone on to become a regular in Graham Potter's side as they look survive relegation from the Premier League.
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Andre Gray, 29, plays for Premier League side Watford. Gray started his career at Shrewsbury who were then plying their trade in League Two of the English footballing pyramid. After making on 5 appearances for the club, Gray was released by Shrewsbury and snapped up by Conference North side Hinckley Town. Gray went on to score 29 times for Hinckley Town over two seasons before moving up a division to Conference National League side Luton Town. Gray revealed that dropping out of full time football helped him re-find his desire to become a professional footballer.
In 97 appearances for Luton Town, Gray went on to score 52 goals, being awarded the Conference National Player Of The Year award as Luton gained promotion back to the Football League in the 2013/14 season. In June 2014, Gray left Luton and joined Championship side Brentford, who are widely regarding as having one of the best scouting systems outside the Premier League. There were question marks whether Gray would be able to make the step up to the Championship, however Gray managed 20 goals for Brentford as they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League, losing in the play offs.
After only one season at Brentford, Gray was on the move to fellow Championship side Burnley for a club record transfer fee, rumoured to be around £6 million. In the 2015/16 season, Gray went on to score 25 goals and was named the Championship Player Of The Year as Burnley were crowned champions and gained promotion to the Premier League. Gray went on to score 10 goals in the Premier League and became the first Burnley player ever to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. In the summer of 2017, fellow Premier League side Watford signed Gray from Burnley for a club record fee of £18.5 million. At the time of writing this article, Gray has scored 14 times for Watford in 80 appearances.
Yannick Bolasie, 31, plays for Premier League side Everton however is currently on loan to Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. As a 16 year old, Bolasie started his career at Rushden & Diamonds before moving to Southern Football League side Hillingdon Borough. After only five appearances for Hillingdon Borough, Bolasie moved to Malta, signing for Floriana, scoring 4 goals in his solitary season at the club before returning to England and signing for Championship side Plymouth Argyle.
Bolasie was unable to break into the first team picture at Plymouth and spent a loan spell in the Conference National with Rushden & Diamonds before moving out on loan again to League Two side Barnet. In February 2010, after impressing at Barnet, Bolasie returned to Plymouth and made his Championship debut against Barnsley. Bolasie went on to cement his place in the Plymouth Argyle starting eleven but could not prevent their relegation to League One. In June 2011, Bolasie moved back to the Championship, signing for Bristol City. After being announced as Bristol City's Young Player Of The Year, Bolasie handed in a transfer request and joined fellow Championship side Crystal Palace for a fee of £300,000.
Crystal Palace gained promotion to the Premier League in the 2012/13 season and Bolasie went on to make his Premier League debut in October 2013 against Liverpool. Bolasie became the first Crystal Palace player ever to score a hat trick in the Premier League and went on to score 12 times for the club before moving to Everton in 2016. Everton paid £25 million for Bolasie. Bolasie's time at Everton has been disrupted by injuries and Bolasie has spent time away from the club at Aston Villa, Belgium side Anderlecht and also Sporting Lisbon.
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Jarrod Bowen, 23, plays for Premier League side West Ham United, joining the club in January 2020 for a fee of £25 million from Championship side Hull City. Bowen started his career in the Conference National for Hereford Town. In the 2013/14 season, Bowen scored once in eight appearances before Hereford were expelled from the Conference due to financial issues.
In July 2014, Bowen signed for Hull City, joining the club on a three year deal. Bowen made his debut for Hull in August 2016 and went on to score 52 goals for the club before moving to West Ham. Bowen went on to make his Premier League debut in October 2016 against Watford, despite still being a teenager. In 2019, Bowen won the Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year and Hull City Supporter's Player of the Year awards. At the time of writing, Bowen has made 10 appearances for West Ham United, scoring on one occasion.
Image credit: Stoke Sentinel
Sam Clucas, 29, started his footballing career at Central Midlands Football League Nettleham. After initially agreeing a football scholarship in the United States, Clucas went on to sign for League Two side Lincoln City instead. In 2009, Clucas was placed on the transfer list by then Lincoln manager Chris Sutton and a loan move to Northern Counties side Lincoln Moorlands Railway fell through before Clucas was released in the 2010 after his contract at Lincoln came to an end.
With no club, Clucas was picked for the Glenn Hoddle Football Academy and Clucas earned a move to Spanish Fourth Division side Jerez Industrial. After 20 appearances in Spain, Clucas returned to England and signed for League Two side Hereford Town. In Clucas' first season at Hereford, they were relegated into the Conference. In the 2012/13 season, Clucas impressed for Hereford, scoring 9 goals before signing for League Two side Mansfield Town for a fee of £20,000. In the 2013/14 season, Clucas was the star man for Mansfield, scoring 13 goals from midfield before handing in a transfer request as Mansfield missed out on promotion.
In September 2014, Clucas signed for League One side Chesterfield, managed by now Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook. Clucas paid a key role for The Spireites, scoring 12 goals as they narrowly missed out on promotion, losing in the play offs. After only one season at Chesterfield, Clucas was on the move again, signing for Championship side Hull City for a fee of £1.3 million. In the 2015/16 season, Clucas featured 52 times for the club as they gained promotion to the Premier League. Clucas made his Premier League debut in August 2016 and after scoring against Leicester City, this was Clucas' fifth successive season in which he scored a goal, in a fifth different division.
After Hull's relegation to the Championship, Clucas signed for Premier League side Swansea City. After a tough spell at Swansea, Clucas left the club after only one season, signing for Championship side Stoke City for a fee of £6 million in August 2018. At the time of writing, Clucas has appeared 68 times for Stoke City and scored 14 goals.
West Brom striker Charlie Austin narrowly missed out on this list and would also have been eligible after starting his career at Poole Town. We hope you enjoyed this article- if you did, head over to our Twitter and let us know: @TheFootyGang.