Non-league football has always produced stars that have gone on to feature at the highest level. Jamie Vardy was once a Stocksbridge Park Steels player, while Michail Antonio was once leading the line for Tooting & Mitcham United.
Those are just two examples showing that there are some unearthed gems in the lower leagues of English football that could go on to have a fantastic career. The Vanarama National League is more competitive than ever before this season with Wrexham, Notts County and Chesterfield all being the frontrunners for promotion. It is one of the most enticing leagues in England where any team can beat anyone. But which three non-league players deserve a move to the Football League?
First up is the National League’s top goal-scorer this season, Macaulay Langstaff. The Notts County forward has netted on 21 occasions in 23 games, at the time of writing, so far this season. He has been causing nightmares for defences in the fifth tier and he is attracting interest from teams higher up the football pyramid.
The Notts County striker joined the Magpies in the summer following an excellent season with National League North side Gateshead. He was part of the team that were promoted and in that promotion campaign, he scored 28 goals earning himself the move to Notts County. There were some doubts if Langstaff would be able to replicate his excellent goal-scoring numbers at Notts County but those concerns were quickly washed away.
The ex-York City man has been labelled as ‘the next Jamie Vardy’ and it is easy to see why many have made that comparison. Langstaff, despite only making the move to Meadow Lane in the summer, is reportedly on the radar of a host of Championship clubs. Cardiff City, Swansea City, Bristol City and Preston North End are all interested, according to Nottinghamshire Live, and they could potentially make a move for Langstaff in January.
Next up on this list is Southend United’s centre-back, Kacper Łopata. He has represented Poland at U18 through to the U21 level and he has been one of the National League’s most impressive defenders this season.
Łopata initially had a loan spell at Southend last season where he was immense for the Shrimpers. He quickly became a fan favourite at Roots Hall but he returned to Sheffield United where he was thought to have suitors from the EFL and Poland. The vast majority of the Southend fans knew they would most likely not see Łopata in a Southend shirt again. However, at the beginning of September, Łopata returned to south-east Essex permanently to help with the Blues’ promotion push.
The 21-year-old has a very bright future ahead and he could line-up for Poland’s senior side soon after featuring for the U21’s. Some Sheffield United fans wanted Łopata to remain in south Yorkshire but he needed regular game time – something that he has not received much in his career so far. A bright future lies ahead…
Lastly is Chesterfield’s attacking full-back, Jeff King. He joined Chesterfield in the summer of last year and this campaign in particular, the Liverpool-born defender has become one of the best-attacking full-backs in the fifth tier. King is not just good defensively, but he is even better in attack with several goals and assists to his name already this season.
King’s excellent attacking play is mainly because he used to be an attacking midfielder but when he joined Halifax Town in 2019, he was converted to a right-back. For several years, he had spells with non-league clubs including Nantwich Town, Kendal Town and Ashton United. King made his way into the Bolton Wanderers first-team squad a few years ago when they were under a transfer embargo.
At the age of 27, King still has time to get a move to the EFL. As I alluded to earlier, Chesterfield are in a three-horse race with Wrexham and Notts County to return to the EFL. If Chesterfield are unsuccessful in that quest, a host of their star assets may be looking for a new club.
But which of these three players do you think could make a move to an EFL club in the future?