7 Premier League Stars Who Began Their Careers Playing Non-League Football

Cohen Bramall secured a move that dreams are made of this week when he joined Arsenal after playing for Hednesford Town in the lowly seventh tier of English football.

The 20-year-old is now faced with the challenge of proving to the Gunners that he deserves the opportunity to play for the first-team, but he certainly wouldn't be alone should he make to the highest level from such humble football beginnings.

Here's a look at seven current Premier League stars who began their careers in non-league...

7. Duncan Watmore

Having been released by Manchester United's academy while only 12 years of age, Duncan Watmore eventually got his start in football with famous FA Cup giant killers Altrincham.

The pacey young forward spent 18 months with the Robins in the sixth tier of English football before being spotted by Sunderland. He became a Black Cats regular last season after a brief loan in Scotland and had started 11 Premier League games in 2016/17 prior to suffering a serious knee injury in December.

6. Yannick Bolasie

Despite being born in France and representing DR Congo at international level, Yannick Bolasie first played club football in England since the age of 17 when he began his senior career at non-league Hillingdon Borough in the western outskirts of Greater London.

From Hillingdon he moved to Malta, but returned to England to sign with Plymouth Argyle in 2008. The winger was snapped up by Crystal Palace in 2012 after just a sole season with Bristol City and cost Everton £25m for his services this summer.

5. Ashley Williams

Ashley Williams' career has been one long, steady climb, starting out in the obscurity of semi-professional football in 2001 and reaching the semi-finals of a major international tournament in the same summer that he moved for as much as £13m in 2016.

Williams spent his first two seasons as a footballer with Hednesford Town in his native west midlands. He then made the jump into the Football League with Stockport County in 2003, before embarking on a journey towards the Premier League with Swansea five years later.

4. Charlie Austin

Southampton striker Charlie Austin was famously working as a bricklayer before becoming a full-time footballer. He'd been at Reading as a schoolboy but was released at the age of 15 and it wasn't until after his 20th birthday that he got a chance with a professional club.

Prior to his successful trial with League One Swindon, Austin had spent time with Kintbury Rangers, Hungerford Town and Poole United, scoring 64 goals in 57 appearances for the latter. He eventually made it to the top flight for the first time with QPR in 2014.

3. Chris Smalling

Within seven short years of playing his last game for Maidstone United in the eighth tier of English football, Chris Smalling was captaining Manchester United for the first time in a Premier League game against Arsenal at Old Trafford.

A young Smalling  snapped up by Fulham after his impressive form for the non-league Kent club, but he was with the Cottagers for just 18 months before Sir Alex Ferguson wanted his signature. The England defender has since won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup.

2. Michail Antonio

While many others who begin their senior careers with non-league clubs might have at least spent time with a professional academy at a younger age, Michail Antonio didn't even have that and was a product of Tooting & Mitcham United's youth team.

The winger had been invited to join Tottenham at the age of 14, but his mum wouldn't allow him to for fear it would be interfere with his schoolwork. But after his Tooting debut at 17, came Reading, followed by Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and now West Ham.

1. Jamie Vardy

The most famous journey from non-league rags to Premier League riches is Jamie Vardy, who didn't play in the Football League for the first time until the age of 25 when Leicester paid the hefty sum of £1m to sign the raw striker from Fleetwood Town.

Vardy had been prolific for the Lancashire club one rung below League Two, and for Halifax Town before that after three years at Stocksbridge Park Steels in Sheffield. He scored 16 times en-route to winning the Championship in 2014 and later 24 in the Foxes' stunning Premier League title winning campaign last season.

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