Seeing as it’s Non-League Day this Saturday, we’ve decided to celebrate the very best players past and present who also boast a stint in non-league football with an ultimate Non-League XI.
You’d be surprised how difficult it was to come up with a full eleven, but we think this is a very respectable starting line-up. Have a read and let us know what you think!
Goalkeeper – Carlo Nash
The former Crystal Palace and Man City goalkeeper began his career at Rossendale United, before a move to Clitheroe which included a Wembley appearance in the 1996 FA Vase final.
A move to Palace soon followed, and began a steady career as a dependable number two. We think he’d relish the chance to be undisputed number one in our ultimate non-league XI.
Right Back – Warren Barton
They don’t come much more dependable than this. Barton began life at Maidstone, quickly gaining attention for his marauding runs up the flank. He split his time in non-league with a job in a mailroom before a move to Wimbledon in 1990.
Seven years at Newcastle where they were Premier League runners-up twice, and three England caps make the right back position Barton’s for as long as he wants it.
Centre-back – Chris Smalling
The current beacon of hope for all non-league footballers around the UK. Smalling also began life at Maidstone, albeit at the reformed club to Barton’s original. A series of impressive displays saw scouts flock and he was snapped up by Fulham.
Smalling’s rise continued though and he’s now one of the first names on the Manchester United team-sheet and an England regular. Not bad at all.
Centre-back – Jay DeMerit
Partnering Smalling is former USA international Jay DeMerit. Moving across the pond to find a career in the game, DeMerit started out at ninth-tier Southall on £40 a week.
A move to Northwood and a friendly against Watford quickly drew the Hornets attention, and DeMerit spent six years at Vicarage Road in the Premier League and Championship.
Left-back – Stuart Pearce
Completing this rags-to-riches defence is none other than Psycho. Pearce made his name at Wealdstone near Harrow while also maintaining a career as an electrician, just in case the football thing didn’t work out.
The football thing did work out though, with spells at Coventry, over 400 appearances at Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, West Ham and Man City in addition to 78 England appearances to cap off one superb career at the top.
Midfield – Vinnie Jones
The holding man in this three-player midfield. Jones also started out at Wealdstone, before a move to Wimbledon saw him help the Crazy Gang to the 1988 FA Cup.
Spells at Leeds, Chelsea, Sheffield United and Wimbledon again made him a Premier League regular in the 1990s before a successful spell in Hollywood. Yep, really.
Midfielder – Chris Waddle
The creative force of this entire Non-League dream team. Waddle played in a host of local north-east outfits while working in a sausage factory, before attracting Newcastle’s attention as a 19-year-old in 1980.
One of the biggest stars of the 80’s, few teams throughout Europe wouldn’t have wanted Waddle in their team. Spells at Tottenham, Marseille and Sheffield Wednesday saw him spent 16 years at the top giving full-backs nightmares.
Midfield – Alan Pardew
Complementing the skill of Waddle and the crunching challenges of Jones is Alan Pardew, who played for a host of non-league sides in the 80s before a move to Crystal Palace.
Four years at Selhurst was followed by another four at Charlton before launching a managerial career which is going rather well right now.
Striker – Les Ferdinand
Every non-league team needs a target man and Les Ferdinand was just that for Hayes back in the last 1980s. A raft of goals quickly alerted local giants QPR, who really put big Les on the map.
The most clinical finisher in the mid-90s, Ferdinand netted 101 league goals in a five-year period before injuries took hold. 17 England caps is testament to Ferdinand’s talent, and he is currently a director of football at Loftus Road.
Striker – Charlie Austin
There are so many goals in this team. After a few spells with non-league teams failed to work out, Charlie Austin managed over a goal a game at Poole Town while also working as a bricklayer.
Swindon promptly swooped, and his form there soon saw a move to Burnley and then QPR. 18 goals with Rangers in the Premier League completed his zero to hero story, and though he’s stayed with the Hoops in the Championship, a move back to the top, and an England cap, can’t be far away.
Striker – Ian Wright
You can’t have a non-league XI without Ian Wright, who didn’t get picked up by a club until he was 22 after spells at Greenwich Borough and Dulwich Hamlet eventually caught the eye of Crystal Palace.
The rest is pretty much history, as Wright spent seven years at Selhust tormenting defenders, before signing for Arsenal.
He may have been almost 29 at the time, but that didn’t stop Wright becoming a Highbury legend, as he claimed a then-record 185 goals for the club.
We reckon this line-up is a belter, and with everyone at their respective best, would comfortably secure a mid-table finish, maybe even a place in the Europa League…
What do you think? Have we missed anyone out? Tweet us @Ladbrokes or let us know in the comments below!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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