As we waved goodbye to another Premier League season this past weekend, many players have made a name for themselves this season.

Jarrod Bowen has asserted himself as one of the better wingers in the league for example, and his career started in the depths of non-league. He’s not alone in making the journey from non-league to Premier League.

From humble beginnings to the bright lights of the Premier League, some of football’s biggest stars have taken a remarkable journey.

Forget multi-million pound academies, these players honed their skills in the often-gritty world of non-league football. From battling for promotion in front of passionate local crowds to gracing the Premier League stage, these footballers defied the odds.

Buckle up, as we celebrate the remarkable rise of these Premier League stars who started their careers in the non-league wilderness.

  1. Jarrod Bowen

The right winger has enjoyed four highly successful years as a Premier League player with West Ham, notching up seven England caps along the way, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Bowen. Unsuccessful trials at Cardiff and Aston Villa as a youngster led the lad from Herefordshire to his local side, Hereford United. It didn’t take long for Bowen’s performances at Edgar Street to attract Premier League interest in Hull CIty, who went on to sign the winger for free after just eight appearances for The Bulls. Bowen’s career has continued on an upward trajectory, winning the Europa Conference League with West Ham, and making a strong case for himself to be included in the England squad for the Euros finals.

  1. Ian Wright 

Arsenal’s second leading goalscorer is widely considered as one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history. What’s further impressive is the fact Wright did not play top flight football until the age of 22, when he joined Crystal Palace from Greenwich Borough and earned a modest wage of £30 a week. 159 goals for the Gunners was enough to make him the fourth best player to represent the club, according to a 2008 poll.

  1. Michail Antonio

The right back-turned striker has had a monumental rise through the divisions, after the londoner was unsuccessful in trials with Tottenham, Brentford and QPR before finding a home at Tooting & Mitcham. It only took a handful of appearances for Reading to take a chance on Antonio, and various League 1 loan spells at Cheltenham, Colchester, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday gave a good grounding in the EFL. A year at Forest put his name on the radar of Premier League clubs after earning a Team of The Season place. After eight years at West Ham, scoring vital goals to help win the UEFA Conference League, as well as 13 Jamaica caps, making quite the success story.

  1. Chris Smalling 

Many would be forgiven for thinking Smalling started his career at Manchester United, where the two time Premier League winner racked up most of his professional appearances, with 206 games for The Red Devils. However, a meteoric rise over two years saw him make the step up from the 7th tier of English football at Maidstone united to the Premier League. After being released by Millwall as a 15 year old, Smalling was snapped up by The Stones, but it didn’t take long for Fulham to gain interest after an impressive twelve appearances. He bettered his appearance tally by just one at Fulham, before signing the defender in January 2010. Smallng has since gone on to join Roma, winning a Uefa Conference League, whilst also earning 31 caps for England. 

  1. Stuart Pearce

     The legendary left back nicknamed ‘psycho’ was a mainstay for England, notching up 78 caps, with the majority coming when he was playing for Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough. Forest is the club mostly associated with Pearce, having made 401 appearances over twelve years for the club, but the club he represented most after the reds is none other than Wealdstone. Being from London himself, Pearce turned down an offer from Hull City to remain local and play for Weldstone, whilst working as an electrician through the week. Unlike many of the other players to feature on this list, Pearce’s career in non-league was an extended one before being picked up by Coventry, as he played part-time for The Stones in the Alliance Premier League- now called the National League.

  1. Joe Hart

 The ex England number 1 has just played his last professional game as Celtic lifted the Scottish premiership against St Mirren, calling time on an excellent career. Hart amassed 75 caps for England, including a World Cup and two Euros campaigns whilst winning two Premier League titles with Manchester City, hailed as one of the most important signings in the Sheikh Mansour era. The keeper’s career started at local club Shrewsbury Town, who first travelled with their first team squad to Exeter as a 15 year-old schoolboy, a match which confirmed Salop’s relegation to the Conference at the end of the 2003/04 season. He racked up 54 appearances in the fifth tier before signing for City for £600,000, a huge fee for Shrewsbury at the time. Loans to various football league sides and eventually Birmingham CIty in the Premier League put Hart’s name on the radar. 

  1. Wes Morgan 

            Our first Premier League winning captain of the list led Leicester City to their fairytale title win in 2015/2016 and had the honour of lifting the trophy. Morgan was signed from Nottingham Forest, and despite his long allegiance with the reds, he is not an academy graduate of the club. Morgan was released by Notts County at fifteen years old after spending seven years on the other side of the River Trent. After being released, Morgan found a home at Dunkirk football club, who gave him a platform for first team football for a year before catching Forest’s eye. Morgan studied business at Nottingham College while playing semi-professionally in the Midlands Football Alliance League, step five of the pyramid.

  1. Jamie Vardy

         We couldn’t do a non league list without involving the most well known story of any player. Vardy spearheaded Leicester’s title win alongside Morgan, notching up 24 goals, including 11 in consecutive matches to break a Premier League record that year. The fairytale was not always applicable to Vardy’s career. He was released by Sheffield Wednesday, the club he supported, as a 16 year old. Stocksbridge Steels paid Vardy £30 a week from 2006-2010 and Vardy returned 40 goals in 88 games. Halifax and then Fleetwood followed, as did the goals, helping the latter win promotion from the Conferencer. Leicester spent £1 million on Vardy in 2012, a non league record sum for a player, and it would be fair to say he’s been worth it with him being a modern legend for the Foxes, with 405 appearances and counting.