It’s easy to overlook non-league football, but do so at your peril. Players like Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin and Andre Gray all flourished in the lower leagues, and promising young stars continue to be discovered on a regular basis.
The Vanarama National League is packed with high-profile teams. Whether you’re battling among them or scouting a cheap star for the highest tiers of English football, you’ll want to identify the best potential signings on offer. Non-league is an unfamiliar world to many, so here’s our pick of the bunch...
Jonny Maxted (GK)
Need to know: Maxted is a talented young keeper who recently made the National League switch from Forest Green to Guiseley. He was also voted player of the season by the club’s fans, helping the team to avoid relegation by a single point. FM 2017 rates him highly, suggesting he can become a star League One keeper in the future.
Sam Magri (RB)
Team: Dover Athletic
Need to know: Versatile defender Magri began his career at Portsmouth, QPR and Crystal Palace before making the switch to Dover Athletic of the National League. The Malta international benefits from his leadership, determination and consistency in FM 2017, and comes packed with outstanding potential.
David Ferguson (LB)
Need to know: At just 22 years old, Ferguson has already gained plenty of experience at Football League level. He captained Blackpool during their doomed freefall phase in League One, before eventually heading back to his original club after a spell with Shildon AFC. His physical stats are particularly impressive in-game, and his leadership and determination attributes lend well to any side.
Sean Raggett (CB)
Team: Lincoln City
Need to know: Ex-Dover defender Raggett enjoyed a season to remember in 2016/17. The highly rated centre-back won promotion with Lincoln City, and famously scored a last-minute winner against Premier League side Burnley in the FA Cup fifth round. In-game, Raggett’s 18 for natural fitness, 15 strength and 15 heading make him a great buy for Football League sides in FM 2017.
Sam Hughes (CB)
Need to know: Chester’s Hughes is one of the hottest non-league properties on the market. The highly rated youngster is rumoured to have been targeted by Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday in recent months, and his club rejected a “substantial bid” from Barnsley in January. He’s suitably dominant in FM 2017, but don’t expect to snag him on the cheap.
Alex Woodyard (CM)
Team: Lincoln City
Need to know: At just under £100k, Woodyard is one of the highest-valued players on this list. It’s no surprise – he’s another well-regarded youngster who captured the National League title with Lincoln in April. The hard-working midfielder allegedly ignored interest from Championship clubs to extend his Imps contract, but it’s still worth trying to tempt him away.
Bruno Andrade (RM)
Team: Boreham Wood
Need to know: Andrade is a pacey Portuguese winger for Boreham Wood of the National League. The ex-QPR and Woking player benefits from his speed, acceleration and dribbling stats, and is versatile enough to play in multiple positions. With the right development, he can develop into a leading star for League Two sides.
Jack Powell (CM)
Team: Ebbsfleet United
Need to know: Powell began his career as a product of West Ham’s youth academy, progressing to Millwall and finally settling at Ebbsfleet United in 2016. He’s blessed with an excellent array of balanced stats in FM 2017, and his consistency and potential make him a great signing for fifth-tier sides and above. The youngster featured in his club’s recent National League South play-off final victory over Chelmsford City.
Cole Stockton (ST)
Team: Tranmere Rovers
Need to know: Baulk if you will, but Stockton’s £110k price tag matches his in-game ability – he often emerges as a National League top scorer in FM 2017. In real life, he actually spent half the year on loan at League Two Morecambe before returning to his parent club in January. Stockton went on to score eight goals for Tranmere (three in the play-off semi-finals) before featuring in their final loss to Forest Green at Wembley.
Jake Cassidy (ST)
Need to know: Ex-Wales U21 international Cassidy is a guaranteed goalscorer in FM 2017. The Guiseley striker can reach the 20-goal mark with ease, benefiting from excellent pace, strength and heading stats. The youngster contributed with eight crucial goals for his side in 16/17, and his in-game stats suggest he’ll be back in the Football League before long.
Aidan Connolly (LM)
Team: York City
Need to know: It’s been another tough year for fans of York City – they suffered National League relegation by the narrowest of margins. It’s been a turbulent one for Scottish youngster Connolly too, having been forced to the sidelines on multiple occasions. Regardless, the ex-Dundee United midfielder is a skilful, tricky winger who commands a costly fee, but competes comfortably at a League Two level.
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