Five players who went from Non-League to Premier League

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Credit: Getty Images)

As Jamie Vardy tucked home Leicester City’s second goal at Crystal Palace on Sunday to secure victory for the burgeoning Foxes, it was his tenth Premier League goal of the season.

Vardy is currently the league’s leading marksman, with Sunday’s strike his 90th in just 187 Premier League games – a remarkable record from a man signed for £1,000,000 from Non-League Fleetwood Town in 2012. 

Revered in the Midlands and crucial to Leicester’s unthinkable 2015/16 Premier League title win, Vardy demonstrates the sometimes untapped talent that exists in the Non-League pyramid.

He’s also not the only former Non-League player to enjoy a successful Premier League career, as we take a look at five others who made the step-up. 

Kevin Phillips

When the prolific striker was released by Southampton as a teenager he joined semi-professional Baldock Town in 1991.

He played as a right back until an injury crisis prompted a move up front, and after scoring twice in his first match in his new role, he never looked back.

Watford snapped up Phillips for £10,000 before a move to Sunderland gave him his Premier League chance.

Kevin Phillips celebrates scoring for Sunderland (Credit: Getty Images)

Phillips went on to represent the Black Cats, Southampton, Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Crystal Palace in the top flight, scoring 92 goals in 263 appearances, while also winning eight England caps. 

The free-scoring striker had a particularly special season in 1999/2000, scoring 30 goals in just 36 games, winning the Premier League Player of the Season and the Golden Boot Award.

That season, he also won the European Golden Shoe, dished out to the top scorer across the top division of every European country. He remains the only Englishman to ever win the award, with former winners including Eusebio, Marco Van Basten and Lionel Messi.

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Ian Wright

Following a spell fluctuating around the Non-League circuit, which included a two-week period in prison for failing to pay fines for driving without tax or insurance, Wright was recruited by Crystal Palace from Greenwich Borough in 1985.

Ian Wright in the 1990 FA Cup Final. (Credit: Getty Images)

After scoring 52 goals in four seasons in the old First Division, Wright accumulated 113 goals in just 213 Premier League appearances.

His success at Selhurst Park, including his famous partnership with Mark Bright, led to a move to Arsenal for £2,500,000 in 1991.

The Gunners’ top scorer for six successive seasons, Wright won the Premier League in 1997/98 and remains the club’s second highest all-time goal scorer. 

He joined West Ham for one more season of top-flight action while also scoring nine goals in 33 caps for England. 

Steve Finnan

Finnan was released by Wimbledon as a youngster and joined Welling United in The National League (formerly the Conference). 

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After moving up the footballing pyramid, his first taste of Premier League action was with Fulham, where he was named in the 2001/02 PFA Team of the Year before representing Liverpool and Portsmouth.

He made 236 Premier League appearances, 145 for Liverpool, and was a key part of their squad from 2003-2008.

An ever-present in their 2004/05 Champions League win, Finnan made 14 appearances throughout the campaign. He also managed 53 appearances for the Republic of Ireland.

Liverpool's Steve Finnan (Credit: Getty Images)

Liverpool.com writer Joel Rabinowitz said: “Until Trent Alexander-Arnold’s emergence in the last few years, Finnan was undoubtedly the best Liverpool right-back in modern times, simultaneously a highly dependable defender and a useful attacking outlet.”

Finnan is the only player to have played in a World Cup, Champions League, Europa League, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of English football and the National League.

Les Ferdinand

QPR signed Ferdinand from Hayes for £30,000 in 1987 and helped secure their place in the inaugural Premier League, netting 20 times in the old First Division. 

He made 351 appearances and scored 149 goals for QPR, Newcastle, Tottenham, West Ham, Leicester and Bolton in the Premier League and is tenth in the league’s all-time goal scoring charts.

Les Ferdinand at QPR (Credit: Getty Images)

Ferdinand won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in the 1995/96 season, netting 25 goals, the most prolific season of his career. 

The striker scored the 10,000th Premier League goal in December 2001 whilst playing for Tottenham against Fulham whilst he also won 17 caps for England, scoring five goals.  

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Joe Hart

Hart began his career in The National League with Shrewsbury Town, making his debut as a 17-year-old. 

He caught the eye of Manchester City and they signed Hart in 2006, where he remained at The Etihad until 2018, with interludes on season-long loans at Birmingham City in 2009/10 and West Ham in 2017/18, before he joined Burnley permanently. 

Burnley goalkeeper Joe Hart (Credit: Getty Images)

Hart has made 340 Premier League appearances, keeping 127 clean sheets; the second most in Premier League history.

He was ever-present for City during the early years of Sheikh Mansour’s riches, winning four Golden Glove awards (2010-13 and 2015) and winning the Premier League in 2012 and 2014.

Hart has 75 England caps and held a phenomenal record of 123 successive Premier League starts for City between 2010-13. 

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