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From Non-League To Premier League: The Butchers and Bakers Earning Their Crust In The Top Flight

November 18, 2015

- Grant Whittington

The rise of Jamie Vardy this season has been quite phenomenal. He’s firing on all cylinders and has even made his England debut ahead of the European Championships in France next summer. The Leicester star is on the cusp of equalling Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s consecutive goal-scoring record on Saturday when the Foxes take on Newcastle, placing himself firmly in the record books.

All this from a man who just five years ago was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Northern Premier League.

However, he’s not the only man to be a success in the top flight coming from a non-league background. We take a look at three of the finest footballers to pack up their jobs and enjoy a career playing the greatest game in the world…

Chris Smalling

Another man having a particularly good season in the Premier League is Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. ‘Mike’ as he’s affectionately known as by his boss Van Gaal has been receiving plenty of plaudits from pundits and looks a shoe in to start in the back four for England at Euro 2016.

His road to Old Trafford however wasn’t like many of his teammates, beginning his career with Maidstone United. The 25-year-old only made 16 appearances for The Stones before a number of league teams were after his signature and in 2008 the centre half signed for Fulham.

Quick to impress he signed for United just two years and 19 games after making his debut for the Cottagers and over the years has become an important figure in the United dressing room.

Ian Wright

Imagine finishing work, going to play for your local side, and coming up against Ian Wright? Well if you happened to be facing Greenwich Borough in the early 1980s, that’s exactly who you would have been up against.

We all know and love Ian Wright for his sensational goal-scoring record for Arsenal, but after many unsuccessful trials with league clubs in his teens, Wright started out in non-league.

He played semi-professional until he was almost 22-years-old, having a spell with Dulwich Hamlet before signing for Crystal Palace. From there he never looked back. The striker hit 117 goals for Palace before signing for Arsenal where he would go on to become a club legend.

Stuart Pearce

Stuart Pearce’s spell in non-league football was far from brief with the left back making over 170 appearances for the club whilst also working as an electrician. He was there for over five years before lighting up the top flight, signing for Coventry City for a fee of £30,000 – a huge sum for a non-league player.

It was for Nottingham Forest and England however where he would become a legend of the game, making over 400 appearances for Forest, most of which as club captain. He earned the nickname ‘Psycho’ for his full blooded performances and has since gone on to have a lengthy spell in management, recently leaving the role of Nottingham Forest manager.

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