From Non-league to Football glory

Bank Holiday Monday saw the play off final for the Championship take place at Wembley Stadium as Watford fc played Crystal palace for a right to play in the Premier League.

With the game locked at 0-0 on came journeyman Kevin Phillips, who has played for a number of clubs from Blackpool fc to Sunderland (where he scored over 30 goals in one season for the Black Cats) and it was the 39-year-old striker who’s goal from the penatly spot in Extra-Time put the Eagles back into the Premier League.

But what many football fans don’t remember is the fact that Phillips started his days out in non-league football for Baldock Town, who currently play in the Herts senior county league.

Kevin Phillips scores vs Watford to promote Palace to the Premier 19 years after being a non-league star

Kevin Phillips scores vs Watford to promote Palace to the Premier 19 years after being a non-league star

He joined ‘The Reds’ after he was release from his Youth Trainee Scheme contract at Southampton in 1992. Where he played as a full back for the Saints youth teams.

It was at Baldock where he was converted to the position we all now knows he plays- up front.

He enjoyed great success up front which in 1994 saw Glenn Roeder pay out £10,000 for the striker to join Watford and as they say the rest is history.

But what about other players who have made the step up from non-league football to the football league?

Well there is Ian Wright who was playing for Dulwich Hamlet before at the age of 22 he was brought to Crystal palace by Steve Coppell, where he formed a successful partnership with Mark Bright (Another player who started out in Non-league football at Leek Town) up front which saw them make the 1990 FA Cup final only to lose to Manchester United 1-0in a replay after a 3-3 draw in the first game.

Before he got a move to Arsenal where he beat the recorded most goals scored, which was held by Cifton Bastin and has since been over taken by Thierry Henry.

Since his retirement he owns a stake at Ashford Town and has spoken of his pride of playing non-league football.

Should Chris Smalling ever write an autobiography then surely he will entitle it from United to United or maybe Maidstone to Manchester. The England defender was part of the Millwall academy but joined Maidstone United in 2007 before he was off to another M named team in Middlesborough but within a month his contract was terminated due to homesickness.

Where he returned to Maidstone before he joined Fulham for an eventful debut as he scored an Own Goal to hand local rivals Chelsea a 2-1 win. He was attracting attention from a lot of high profile clubs and in January 2010 Sir Alex Ferguson snapped up the highly rated defender. Where in the 2010-2011 season he went on to play in a number of key games and scored his first ever goal for the Red Devils against Scunthorpe United in the League cup as the Premier League giants won 5-2.

Ashley Williams is another player currently playing in the Premier League who has made from the Non-league game.

He started out at West Brom before joining Conference new boys Hednesford Town where his performance’s saw him join Stockport County before being snapped up by Swansea where he has progressed onto become first team captain and lead the Swans to the Capital One Cup success this year with a 5-0 win over Bradford FC.

Ash is also the captain of the Welsh national football team as Chris Coleman appointed him to the role as captain taking over from Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey. Who could well soon be a teammate in club level if the rumors in the Daily Mail are to believed.

So who will be the next big thing out of non-league football? Well it is hard to tell but last week Duncan Watmore joined Sunderland’s development team (Under 21s) from Altrincham. While a player who I think could really make it big out of non-league is Kidderminster defender Cheyenne Dunkley. He really matured in his first Conference season and has formed an effective partnership with Josh Gowling.


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