1. Dan Scarr (Birmingham)
Goalscoring defenders are a rare breed, but there just so happened to be one tearing up the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier division. Scarr pulled off heroics during Stourbridge’s impressive FA Cup run this term, finding the net three times as the Glassboys proved they’re made of sterner stuff than their nickname suggests by reaching the third round.
Scarr isn’t to be taken lightly in the final third, but that doesn't mean he neglects his core responsibilities at the back. The plucky 22-year-old has been tipped for great things: Premier League outfit West Brom offered him a trial earlier this month, but he's just signed for Gianfranco Zola's Birmingham – his boyhood club. “It means a lot, I lived down the road and used to go to games when I was younger,” Scarr cooed. “To have signed as a full-time player with them, I could not have asked for much more really. It’s all a bit surreal to be honest.”
2. Simeon Akinola (Barnet)
OK, another exception here: Akinola was lighting up the National League with Braintree Town until League Two Barnet bagged him for the bargain sum of £40,000 on New Year's Day. A speedy winger with ample agility and skill to grace the upper echelons of English football, it’s no surprise that Akinola has already begun his ascent up the divisions.
The 24-year-old is an exciting prospect, with his exploits for Braintree earning him a call-up to the England C squad 18 months ago. Still not convinced? Check out the stellar scissor kick he scored for Braintree at Bristol Rovers during the 2014/15 campaign. Even Zlatan would be proud of that one.
3. James Hardy (AFC Fylde)
AFC Fylde are one of the most ambitious clubs outside of the Football League. With five promotions in the last nine years and players like Hardy among their number, it’s easy to see why.
Manchester City overlooked the winger as a youngster but he’s landed on his feet at Mill Farm. A tricky dribbler with the biggest box of tricks in National League North, the 21-year-old has already impressed at England C level, recording two assists against Estonia on his debut. As if that wasn’t enough, he returned to domestic duty four days later and turned in a man-of-the-match performance against Boston United, scoring one goal and laying on another four for his team-mates.
Fylde are aiming to reach the Football League by 2022, but don’t bet against Hardy finding his way there before that.
4. Xavier Vidal (Merstham)
Xavier Vidal might sound more like a La Liga left-back than an Isthmian League prospect, but the attacking midfielder really does ply his trade with Merstham rather than Malaga.
Modelling his game on former Chelsea ace Oscar, the youngster thrives on creating chances for his colleagues but is also adept at finding the net himself. Vidal has already flirted with league football during his blossoming career – he's had trials at Birmingham and Huddersfield – and will probably be operating at a higher level on a permanent basis in the near future.
5. Shilow Tracey (Tottenham)
Tottenham fans could be forgiven for having never heard of Tracey: the gifted 18-year-old may be on the books at White Hart Lane, but he was ushered straight into the club’s development squad immediately after his capture from National League South side Ebbsfleet United last year.
Just 12 months ago, the winger was playing in the academy side of a team in the sixth tier of English football. Now he's vying to claim a place alongside Harry Kane and Dele Alli in Spurs' senior setup.
6. Sean Raggett (Lincoln)
Securing the services of defensive powerhouse Raggett was quite the coup for National League table-toppers Lincoln given that Everton, Liverpool and Crystal Palace were thought to have been eyeballing the former Dover Athletic man.
Dominant in the air and strong in the tackle, the towering England C international knows how to use height to his advantage and has drawn comparisons with Chris Smalling, who began his career at minnows Maidstone United.
7. Jack Munns (Cheltenham)
Cheltenham won promotion to the Football League last season, which is just as well considering their prized asset Munns was unlikely to be confined to the fifth tier for much longer. Although the versatile 23-year-old stands at a diminutive 5ft 5in, he’s been tipped for lofty heights.
Munns, who can play across the midfield or behind a frontman, is one of the most creative players in the National League. He slipped through the cracks at Tottenham's academy during his early years, but the pint-sized prodigy has the credentials to endure the long climb back towards the top of the footballing pyramid.
8. Dan Wishart (Forest Green Rovers)
Wishart’s decision to remain in the National League by swapping Sutton United for Forest Green Rovers was the division’s gain, but how much longer he'll remain in the fifth tier is anybody’s guess.
A left wing-back who's been compared to West Ham's Michail Antonio, Wishart was a key part of the Sutton side that lifted the National League South title last season. Equally adept at pinching the ball from opponents as racing down the flank in possession, he's also been known to channel his inner Roberto Carlos at dead-ball situations.
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