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Graham Westley column: So many more can follow in Vardy’s footsteps

The word is that Walkers Crisps will be producing a Vardy Salted flavour soon. It has been a quite incredible rise to prominence for Jamie Vardy and long may his success continue.

I have long been an advocate of Non-League football as a goldmine filled with talent that could operate higher up the ladder.

In my younger managerial days, I was fortunate enough to work with Simeon Jackson, Steve Morison, George Boyd and Lee Tomlin before they made moves which would subsequently result in them becoming Premier League players.  There was never any doubt in my mind that those lads could progress, if given a chance.

The same is true of lower League players, with Dele Alli’s successful transition from League One to Premier League and international status sparking a realisation amongst top clubs that many others may well be out there.

At Peterborough, we are fortunate to have some of the best young players in the country: Conor Washington, Jermaine Anderson, Rico Santos, Erhun Oztumer, Marcus Maddison, Soully Coulibaly, Chris Forrester, Lee Angol and Jon Taylor have all attracted interest in recent weeks and rightly so.

They could all easily go on to thrive on the Premier League stage. Honestly, I love the lads that I mentioned first, genuinely, but I can honestly say that some of these lads are even more talented.

I sincerely hope that we are serious enough as a country and as Premier League outfits in giving our brightest talents a proper chance. It would be crazy if some of our lads fail to get their chance whilst imported players are gifted opportunities at the top table.

The gap between Non-League and the Premier League can be bridged. The gap between League One and the Premier is not a chasm. Just ask Jamie Vardy.

nI watched my young son play football at Arsenal’s academy training ground recently. The facilities were brilliant. Both the buildings and pitches were built to immaculate standards.

It is outstanding to see that our young stars of the future are being given such fantastic support.

My issue is not that the Premier League clubs can give these facilities to their kids. My issue is that some Football League clubs still have to change at their main ground or in portakabins and drive to park/school pitches which are in a dreadful condition.

It seems crazy to me that we haven’t constructed a financial formula, with all the money flooding into the top of the game, that enables the clubs with the Tomlins, Boyds, Morisons, Vardys, Allis of this world to maximise their potential through the construction of top quality facilities for all our professional players.

Many of Arsenal’s kids will not go on to have a career at any level of the game, if history is repeated. It seems crazy that our game provides more to a team of under-11s than it does to, say, a League One first team. We really should stop and think about that.

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