Robbie McNicholas in action for Basford United.

With more and more academy players being released, the non-league has became a hub for footballers to change the course of their career.

One player who would not leave the professional game in silence was Jamie Vardy.

At 16-years-old he was released by Sheffield Wednesday but then went on to play for semi-pro side Stocksbridge Park Steels.

His hard work and desire got him back into the professional game and that desire led to him winning a Premier League title with Leicester City.

A youngster currently playing at a level above Vardy’s old side Stocksbridge is former Notts County academy prospect Luke Shaw. He said: “This season has been my most enjoyable in non-league so far. I’ve been put back into my preferred position and now I can do things I know I’m good at. I really am enjoying my football a lot more.”

Luke Shaw spent the last four seasons at Ilkeston before making the move to Grantham Town, who are currently enjoying a 15-match unbeaten run with Shaw being a focal point in their success.

Luke Shaw in action for Grantham Town.
Luke Shaw in action for Grantham Town.

During his final season at Ilkeston there were occasions where he wasn’t paid on time but this never gave the 21-year-old from East Leake, Notts any doubts about the non-league.

He added: “Being paid late didn’t quite give me doubts about the non-league as in previous seasons I had seen how good it can be. However, it did make me think of my next move in football a lot quicker which led to me coming to Grantham.

“I look at Vardy and I can see what all this could lead to if I work hard and get a bit of luck, but playing in the non-league is one of the hardest ways to make it into the professional game.”

Robbie McNicholas is another one of Nottingham’s many youngsters with the same goal to make it professional but the 18-year-old has already shown his potential by breaking into Basford United’s first team.

Robbie was in the second batch of youngsters to go onto Central College Nottingham’s football development programme, which is Basford’s youth academy.

The Clifton lad caught the eye in games against professional academy teams in the FA Youth Cup, which he earmarks as a huge part of his progress.

He added: “The Central College course has been fantastic for my development in football and education, and one of my best experience’s was playing against Accrington Stanley in the FA Youth Cup first round proper. We lost 4-1 but it was great to have got through all the qualifying rounds.”

Basford United, who play in the Northern Premier League Division One South with Vardy’s old side Stocksbridge, have only lost one of their last fifteen games.

Robbie said: “So far this season has been really good. As a team we’re pushing to get into the play-offs and if we push on and play well anything is possible. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

The next 12 months will be extremely interesting for Luke Shaw and Robbie McNicholas.

Let’s hope that Nottingham really is the home of the next Jamie Vardy story.