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Non-League Day

Players who went from non-league to Premier League

21 Mar 2023

Inspirational stories of how the invaluable experience of lower league football helped 11 current top-flight stars

Ahead of Non-League Day on Saturday 25 March, we select a Premier League XI of players at the top level who experienced first-hand playing beneath the top four divisions of the English football pyramid.

See: Premier League to mark Non-League Day

Jordan Pickford (EVE)

The Everton goalkeeper gained invaluable experience early in his career while at Sunderland, with spells on loan at non-league Darlington and Alfreton Town, making 17 and 12 appearances respectively.

"I started becoming a man from that day," said Pickford, when speaking about his debut for Darlington against Fleetwood Town in January 2012.

See: Pickford on life in non-league

Adam Webster (BHA)

The centre-back made 24 appearances at Aldershot Town in 2013/14 before going through the divisions to become a first-team regular for Brighton & Hove Albion, helping them push for a top-six Premier League finish this season.

Watch: Webster on climbing football pyramid

Ethan Pinnock (BRE)

After graduating from university with a 2:1 degree while playing for Dulwich Hamlet, Pinnock moved up the non-league ladder and signed for National League side Forest Green Rovers. He helped them win promotion to the Football League during his only season at the club before moving to Barnsley and then joining Brentford.

Read: Pinnock on his non-league roots

Max Kilman (WOL)

The Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-back spent three seasons at a trio of different non-league clubs. He started out at Welling United before joining Maidenhead United, spending one season on loan at Marlow before Wolves signed him in 2018.

Dan Burn (NEW)

Released by his beloved Newcastle United when he was 11, the defender started to make his way in non-league, playing for local clubs New Hartley, Blyth Town and Blyth Spartans. He joined Darlington in 2009 and within two seasons he had made the step up to Fulham. before returning to the Magpies at the start of 2022.

See: Burn looks at the PL's impact on Blyth

Ryan Yates (NFO)

A graduate of Nottingham Forest's academy, Yates gained invaluable experience during a spell on loan at Barrow in 2016/17.

Jarrod Bowen (WHU)

The West Ham United winger made his senior debut in March 2014 as a 17-year-old for a Hereford United side battling relegation. He made such an impression that Hull City signed him in the summer of that year. Bowen moved to the Hammers in January 2020.

Kalvin Phillips (MCI)

The midfielder turned out for the Under-8s side at non-league club Wortley, before he eventually joined Leeds United's Academy seven years later in 2010, where he progressed through to the first team in 2014/15.

Watch: Phillips takes Ian Wright back to his roots

Solly March (BHA)

Prior to joining Brighton & Hove Albion in December 2011, March featured as a youth team player at Eastbourne Borough before he joined his local club Lewes. After three months at the Dripping Pan, he signed for the Seagulls.

Watch: March on his rise from Lewes to Brighton 

Jamie Vardy (LEI)

Leicester City striker Vardy was 27 when he made his Premier League debut having spent nine years plying his trade in non-league at Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town. Vardy joined Leicester in 2012 and helped them win the PL title in 2015/16.

Watch: Vardy on his love for non-league football 

Callum Wilson (NEW)

While on the books at Coventry City as an academy player, Wilson was sent out on loan to Conference Premier clubs Kettering Town and then Tamworth. After leaving the Sky Blues for AFC Bournemouth in 2014, he moved to Newcastle United six years later.

See: More Non-League Day stories

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