Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Non-league football: graveyard or springboard?

Posted on 9 December 2017 by Ben Morse

In the world of inflated price-tags, foreign imports and crazy TV deals, the value of English players has skyrocketed. 

Due to the general loss of soul and identity in football, the public is constantly searching for heart-warming tales of English players rising from playing on rubbish Sunday league pitches to playing under the big lights. 

That’s why we have latched onto the stories of Sam Clucas, who scored in the National League, League Two, League One, Championship and Premier League in consecutive seasons, and Jamie Vardy (who knew that he once played non-league football for Stocksbridge Park Steels?).

And after the opening of Vardy’s ‘V9 Academy’, which focusses on giving training to non-league players and coaches, the question was put to league clubs again: Are they doing enough scouting of non-league football in an effort to find the next Jamie Vardy or Sam Clucas?

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I have spent every Saturday this season going to watch either Leatherhead, Kingstonian, Metrolopitan Police FC or Hampton and Richmond Borough FC with my dad as two football lovers who would prefer to watch non-league football than none at all at 3pm on a Saturday. 

During that time, we’ve seen some bizarre fans (I’m looking at you Brightlingsea Regent F.C.), a few recognisable faces – ex-Cardiff City defender Darren Purse and ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Lenny Pidgley being the notable highlights – and most importantly, some brilliant football. 

Whilst the pitches are obviously not great and the bovril is not really of the highest standard, non-league football is great fun to watch and provides a great place to learn for young players. 

Instead of playing meaningless U-23 matches for their football league clubs where there is nothing riding on it, players should consider dropping down to the lower leagues where they could both learn about the physical and competitive side of the game. 

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But, what of the players who are already playing non-league football? Do they have any chance of being scouted by a league club when they’re excelling at their level? 

To find out, I spoke to Martin Tyler, Sky Sports commentator and Hampton and Richmond Borough FC coach, and Yioryos Vasilaras, Kingstonian marketing director, to find out their thoughts on the issue.