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Who are the best young players in Non-League football?

We’ve cast our eye over the best young players in Non-League who could go on to star in the Football League. All are Under-23 and currently playing in Steps 1-4 – here are the most promising players to watch out for in 2019.


Marvin Ekpiteta – Leyton Orient

The 6ft 4in central defender signed for Orient at the beginning of 2018, but has broken into the first team this season, with his performances catching the eye of England C boss Paul Fairclough.

He has all the attributes to play at a higher level having had spells at Chelmsford, Concord Rangers and East Thurrock in Non-League – he could well be leading the O’s back to the Football League in a few months.

Tyler French – AFC Sudbury

Came close to a move to Crystal Palace at the end of 2016 before it broke down at the 11th hour. The AFC Sudbury defender, who also had time with Leicester City and nearby Ipswich Town, is now getting back to the levels that saw professional clubs interested in him.

Has played full-back and centre-back, he has the talent to step up to the full-time game.

Ed Williams – Kidderminster

After starting his career at Cheltenham, the attacking midfielder joined Gloucester, but has found his feet at Harriers since signing last summer.

His form at the start of the season led to an England C call-up and interest from Football League clubs.

While Kiddy may have had an inconsistent campaign, Williams has still reached double figures for goals and continues to be their star man.

Kidderminster Harriers midfielder Ed Williams

Zak Ansah – Hythe

Twenty goals in the league so far has Ansah leading the way at the top of the Bostik South East goal charts.

His haul is nearly half of Hythe’s as they look to break into the play-offs. The striker, who has 25 goals in all competitions this season, began his career at Arsenal and has played for England at U16 and U17 level.

Manager Sam Denly expects the bids from the Football League will soon arrive having continued his form from last season that saw Ansah score in ten consecutive games at the end of the campaign.

Josh Koroma – Leyton Orient

Came up through Orient’s youth teams and made his first team debut in 2016 before becoming the club’s youngest player to score a hat-trick the following year.

He’s formed a great strike partnership with Macauley Bonne – another O’s star tipped for big things – this season with the club reportedly turning down a £300,000 offer from Sunderland for the 20-year-old.

Leyton Orient stars Josh Koroma and Macauley Bonne

Josh Kelly – Maidenhead 

Caught the eye at the start of the season with some stunning goals that went viral, and has been Maidenhead’s stand-out player in a difficult campaign as they battle against relegation from the National League.

The 20-year-old scored 40 goals on loan at Walton Casuals last season, helping the club achieve promotion from Step 4, and is continuing to adjust to life in Non-League’s top flight.

Jacob Mensah – Ramsgate

On the radar of a number of clubs including Wolves and Crystal Palace, but Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion recently made an approach for the centre back to spend some time in their Academy.

A product of the Bostik South East club’s youth academy, he’s only 18 but made his debut back in 2016. Likened to Chris Smalling, Mensah’s talent isn’t going unnoticed.

Serhat Tasdemir – AFC Fylde

Became the club’s youngest-ever league goal scorer in 2017 after graduating from Fylde’s academy, and then signed a two-year contract with the club, aged 17.

The winger reportedly attracted interest from Stoke and Leicester last season and has continued to impress this year, scoring four goals in a side gunning for promotion.

AFC Fylde’s Serhat Tasdemir

Ben Garrity – Warrington

Plucked by Wire boss Paul Carden from local Liverpool leagues, the midfielder is aiming to take his chance in Non-League football.

Team-mate Rob Evans recently said he believes the youngster can plat at a very high level and Carden is convinced he has a talent on his hands.

Charlie Carter – Chesterfield

Scored 12 goals from midfield in his second full season for Woking in the National League before landing a move to Chesterfield for an undisclosed fee.

A product of the Cards’ academy, the 22-year-old impressed for the Spireites in his first few games for the club, but has since been injured. He’s set to return to action soon and can blossom under new manager John Sheridan.

Joe Raynes – Bath City

Midfielder who joined Bath City in the summer and has become an established part of the Romans’ side. Versatile as can also be shifted out of central midfield as cover and has even featured at left wing-back.

The 23-year-old started in men’s football with Odd Down and Larkhall Athletic before joining Frome Town where he won last season’s player of the year. Now showing he can make the step up.

Kane Smith – Boreham Wood 

The right-back spent two seasons at Hitchin Town, turning out over 120 times, scoring 11 goals and earning 30 assists while helping keep 38 clean sheets.

Boreham Wood signed him in 2017 and last season he played a key part in the club reaching the National League play-off final.

He is nearing the end of his rehabilitation after sustaining a knee injury in their elimination match against AFC Fylde last May.

Boreham Wood’s Kane Smith

Wes Fonguck – Barnet

Another player recognised by England C this season, the midfielder has shone for Barnet with his all-action displays.

He’s been at at the club since 2014, signing a professional contract the following year, and then having loan spells in Non-League at Hendon and Hampton and Richmond. He has made 26 appearances this season, scoring six goals, featuring throughout Barnet’s FA Cup run to the fourth round.

Alex Brown – Buxton

Having come through the ranks at Sheffield United, Brown arrived in Non-League last season with Sheffield FC.

The 20-year-old left-back impressed so much that he was selected for the full England C senior squad at the end of the season. Had a trial at Harrogate Town in the summer but chose to sign for Buxton for guaranteed football. Expect more full-time clubs to look his way.

Tom Walker – Salford City 

Came through Bolton Wanderers academy and made his Football League debut in 2015, making 18 appearances and earning 17 more on loan at Bury.

The midfielder was released by Bolton and signed for Stockport County before moving to FC United of Manchester where he became an instant hit.

He signed for Salford at the start of 2018 and helped them win National League North and was also picked for England C.

Salford City midfielder Tom Walker

Daniel Udoh – AFC Telford United

Has bagged 12 goals in National League North to put Telford in play-off contention in what is his first full season in Non-League.

The 22-year-old was released by Crewe last summer, who signed him from Ilkeston in 2016, and has rediscovered his scoring touch.

Kurt Willoughby – FC United of Manchester

Finished last season as Evo-Stik North’s second leading scorer with 26 goals, earning him a place in the division’s team of the season.

The striker was signed by FC United, two leagues above, and has scored 11 goals during this campaign. One to watch as his climbs the Non-League pyramid.

Daniel Ajakaiye – Hastings United

Began his career in the West Ham youth ranks and appeared in Bromley’s first team but the rapid striker has really shown his potential at Hastings United.

He has 27 goals in all competitions, including 17 in the Bostik South East division to make him one of Step 4’s more ruthless forwards. The club have high hopes for the pacy frontman.


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