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Five players who started at lower league clubs before making it to the top

Jonny Keen
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
741   //    Timeless

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United - FA Cup Quarter Final
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United - FA Cup Quarter Final

Most of the players we see strutting their stuff in the world's top leagues have been trained for years in top-class facilities before taking to the field. Players in the Premier League or La Liga don't normally go straight into the game at the highest level.

Professional clubs nurture their players from an incredibly early age, ensuring they have access to the best facilities, coaches and other development opportunities. These youngsters work with dieticians, physiotherapists and analysts who help them grow into world-class athletes.

But not all players have these advantages. Some start their careers in some really obscure places, having to work their way up from local clubs. Instead of playing against other young professionals in world-class facilities, some future Premier League winners got their star earning a pittance playing in local leagues, working menial jobs on the side just to pay the bills.

Here are five players who played for tiny clubs before hitting the big time.

#5 Chris Smalling

He's won two Premier League titles, earned a Europa League medal and played 31 times for England. But Manchester United defender Chris Smalling began his career with a different United; that is, Maidstone United.

Smalling made his debut for the 8th tier side as a teenager, making 11 appearances before moving on to Fulham for a fee rumoured to be £10,000. Not bad for a player who was later sold on to Manchester United for over 100 times that amount.

Smalling also played for the England schoolboys' national team during his formative years, an experience which helped him to develop technically. But the defender thinks he got more enjoyment out of playing at a lower level than he would have done in the high-pressure world of an academy.

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