JAMIE VARDY’S quest to unearth Non-League talent to follow in his path has taken a step forward as The NLP reveals the players hand-picked for his V9 Academy – and former Chester playmaker Elliott Durrell says they’re all desperate to shine in the spotlight.
Former Stocksbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town striker Vardy has enjoyed a meteoric rise since joining Leicester City as Non-League’s first £1m man in 2012. He’s won the Premier League, is an England regular and his story is being made into a Hollywood film.
Last year he launched his own academy that is aiming to give more Non-League players an opportunity. Thousands have applied and the V9 scouts have been on the ground aiming to select the best players outside the Football League to attend a week-long training camp at Manchester City’s Etihad Campus next month.
The week will culminate in games with scouts from across the country and Europe casting their eye over the hopefuls, while Sky Sports are filming a six-part documentary.
Players from up and down the Non-League Pyramid have been chosen, including Curtis Coppen from Step 5 North Shields and England C internationals like Brandon Hall and Jamie Butler.
Durrell has also impressed before he left Chester last week and the former Hednesford Town, AFC Telford and Wrexham man is determined to take his chance.
“When I realised how big it’s going to be, it was a no brainer,” the 27-year-old said. “The window of opportunity is going to be great. Every so often a little window opens for you. The right people are going to be there watching and that’s what you need.
“Sometimes you can be in the right place but the right person doesn’t see you. Hopefully that’s what this can be. Then, after that, it’s down to me to perform.”
Like many Non-League players, Durrell has had to deal with rejection from big English clubs.
“I’ve read Jamie’s autobiography and he was released for the same reason as me,” said the former Wolves youngster. “I was never told I wasn’t good enough, it was more that I was too small.
“When you’re 13 it’s like the end of the world. But it defines you as a character and makes you stronger. You come back from it and, in a lot of cases nowadays, you see some of the best players in the world aren’t blessed with height. Their ability on the ball is fantastic. So you have to keep believing and working hard.”
Durrell crossed paths with Vardy in Non-League – and the Blues midfielder says seeing the rise has given players hope.
“With the greatest respect, he’s gone from not a lot to having the world at his feet,” Durrell said. “He’s scored at every level he’s played at and now he’s scoring goals for England.
“To see the way he’s done it is phenomenal. I remember playing at Stocksbridge years ago, it’s a fairytale.
“He’s keen on giving other lads the opportunity to do what he’s done. To be a part of that is good – I’m really looking forward to it.”
Goalkeepers: Jamie Butler (Hemel Hempstead), Brandon Hall (Woking), Ashley Rawlins (Market Drayton and AFC Telford)
Defenders: Liam Bateman (Kettering Town), Curtis Coppen (North Shields), Zaine Francis-Angol (Kidderminster), Nathan Green (Dulwich Hamlet), Alex Gudger (Brackley Town), Will Hendon (Worthing), Cieron Keane (Worcester City), Andy May (Whitby), Will Miles (Burgess Hill Town), Manny Parry (Braintree), Alex Penny (Nuneaton), Jordan Tunnicliffe (Kidderminster)
Midfielders: Shane Byrne (Brackley Town), David Carson (Whitby), Ryan Croasdale (Kidderminster), Elliott Durrell (Chester), Shane Henry (Spennymoor), Jordan Keane (Worcester City), Ben Marlow (East Thurrock), Zac McEachran (Banbury), Connor Oliver (North Ferriby), Andi Thanoj (Harrogate Town), Tom Elliott (Nuneaton Town)
Forwards: Oladapo Afolayan (Solihull Moors), Alex Akrofi (Tonbridge Angels), Keagan Cole (Hendon), Ryan Hall (Curzon Ashton), Joe Ironside (Kidderminster), Ricky Korboa (Carshalton), Mikel Miller (Carshalton), Danny Newton (Tamworth), Elton Ngwatala (Kidderminster), Brandon Scott (Cray Wanderers), Glen Taylor (Spennymoor), Lamar Reynolds (Brentwood Town)