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Barnes: Non-league was central to my development

10 Oct 2018

Burnley striker discusses how Paulton Rovers and Eastbourne helped to mould him into a Premier League player

Ahead of Non-League Day on 13 October we spoke to Premier League footballers who played in the non-league game before their rise through the football pyramid.

Ashley Barnes (BUR)

For Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, the first steps towards becoming a Premier League star were taken in the Southern League.

Barnes began his career with Paulton Rovers and, having been snapped up by Plymouth Argyle, he had loan spells with Oxford United, Salisbury City and Eastbourne Borough in the Conference, now known as the National League.

Looking back, the 28-year-old feels his experiences at those clubs helped to shape his career and turn him into a top-flight player.

'Different ways of life'

"Luckily enough, I was only young and still living off mum and dad," he says. "You see different ways of life, but everyone wanted to win.

"I’m still learning every day in training. I’ve still got things to take on board and [playing non-league football] has stood me in good stead."

Barnes believes his former Paulton Rovers team-mates are proud of the roles they have played in his development.

"I think they’re absolutely buzzing for me," he said. "They helped me to play men’s football at a young age.

'They showed me the ropes'

"They basically showed me the ropes early on. They’re [cheering] for me as much as I’m striving to be at the top."

The forward has kept in close touch with those at the clubs who have helped him on his journey to the top.

"I still speak to quite a few people," Barnes says. "I’m very close with my manager, Andrew Jones, at Paulton Rovers and the boys back there. They’ve got a good group.

"I still speak to people at Eastbourne and all the clubs I’ve previously been at."

For more on Non-League Day 2018, go to

Also in this series

Part 1: Foster: Traffic jam gave me my big break in non-league
Part 3: Arter: Non-league coach restored love of the game
Part 4: Cook: Non-league game did me the world of good
Part 5: Bettinelli: I'll always have fond memories of Dartford

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