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Non-league football: The 5 best young stars of 2016-17

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Non-league football: The 5 best young stars of 2016-17

Non-league football: The 5 best young stars of 2016-17

Non-league to Premier League, it’s not the most common of pathways in the football pyramid but when it comes off it’s always the most rewarding.

Following on from Andre Gray, Chris Smalling and the now-famous Jamie Vardy, I decided to look at 5 players who could be set to make the big time in years to come.

James Alabi – Chester FC

Alabi is only 22-years old, and is already at his tenth club. The frontman has had a fruitful season at Chester, which could him a move to a higher level next season. Chester have had a topsy-turvy campaign in the Vanarama National League, and largely have Alabi to thank as his goals have secured the clubs survival within the division.

Having come through the academy ranks with Stoke City, Alabi went out on loan six times before being released in the Summer of 2015. Since his arrival at Chester he has been one of very-few who have excelled throughout the domestic calendar. He has bags of potential, and if he does not sign a new deal with the Blues then he could well play for a club in the football league in 2017-18.

Sean Raggett – Lincoln City FC

It is hard to believe that Raggett is only 23-years old, as he has already racked up over 140 National League appearances. He made his debut for Dover at the tender age of 16, and has been capped by the England C team in the past. Raggett made the headlines in February after his goal against Burnley in the FA Cup earned Lincoln City a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The defender does not make the list for that reason though, as he has excelled for the imps throughout this season. West Bromwich Albion have been linked with a £100,000 transfer for Raggett, and it does appear that a big move is likely for the six-foot centre back despite Lincoln City’s promotion to league-two.

Bradley Bauress – Witton Albion FC

Bauress is a product of the Blackburn Rovers academy, and has come on leaps and bounds with Witton Albion this season in the Vanarama First Division (South). The left-sided midfielder is only 21, and captained Rovers’ under-21 side before moving to Welsh club Colwyn Bay in December 2015.

He was used as a full-back during his time with the Seagulls, and this season has proved his attacking worth in midfielder. Bauress has guided Witton Albion to promotion, and is the club’s top-scorer with 27 goals from 53 appearances. If he continues to progress and show the form he has this season in the 2017-18 campaign, then a move to a bigger club could be on the cards.

Sam Hughes – Chester FC

Hughes’s marauding performances for the Blues this season have caught the eye of several Premier League and Championship clubs in recent months. The 19-year old is a product of Chester’s academy, and the defender from West Kirby stood in as captain for the club during the latter stages of the season.

The Blues received a £75,000 offer from Barnsley for Hughes in the January transfer window, but felt the player merited a larger fee. Scouts from Swansea City, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and several other top-level clubs have watched Hughes throughout the 2016-17 and competition for his signature is likely to be fierce in the summer window.

Alex Woodyard – Lincoln City FC

Woodyard is another starlet playing at Lincoln City, and has continued to progress from season to season across the non-league circuit. He has made over 100 appearances, scattered across four clubs over the space of four seasons. The midfielder turned down a transfer to a Championship club in March, and surprisingly extended his contract with the Imps to the summer of 2018.

The midfielder is known for his trickery, quick feet and unselfishness in supplying his teammates on the pitch. He is hard-working, and his leadership off the ball has earned him the armband with the England C squad. Woodyard will be a key figure in Lincoln’s league-two campaign next season, but seems destined to make his mark on the top of the game in the future.

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