Dwight Gayle provides hope for non-league players
Dwight Gayle's journey to the Premier League can be an inspiration for any non-league star
Crystal Palace confirmed that they had signed Peterborough United's Dwight Gayle in a deal potentially rising to £8.5million on Wednesday.
This move was a refreshing because it showed a player who had toiled for four years in the non-league had been given the chance to prove himself in the Premier League.
Moreover, Crystal Palace have taken a risk on a young, talented, Englishman rather than opt for a proven foreign import - something which most Premier League clubs do far too often, in my opinion.
Gayle's route to the pinnacle of English football was not an orthodox one, nor was it an easy one - following his release by Arsenal as a teenager, he moved to Essex Senior League side Stansted, where he plied his trade for two seasons.
He was then spotted by Dagenham & Redbridge, who signed the pacy youngster before immediately shipping him out on loan to Bishop's Stortford.
He excelled at the Conference North side, netting 42 goals in 55 appearances, and since then his rise has been meteoric.
Another impressive spell upon his return to the Daggers caught the eye of Championship side Peterborough United with the striker initially moving on loan before securing a permanent deal - scoring 13 times in 29 appearances prior to their relegation.
Now he prepares to take on some of the world's greatest defenders such as Vincent Kompany, John Terry and Nemanja Vidic.
He's not a common story. Fellow Palace teammate Kevin Phillips began his career at Baldock Town having been released by Southampton, whilst Chris Smalling was snared from Maidstone United by Fulham.
However, it is becoming increasingly rare that top English clubs are taking a risk on players from outside the top division, let alone outside the Football League altogether.
In the past players like Les Ferdinand, Vinnie Jones and Stan Collymore emerged from non-league sides; but why has this tradition stopped.
Premier League sides are unwilling to gamble on unproven lower league players and instead choose foreign imports.
This can only be detrimental for the national team and is reducing opportunities for English talents who are waiting for a big break.
Having seen Gayle play on a number of occasions, I have no doubt that, given opportunities, he has the ability to develop into a good Premier League player.
And hopefully his success will set a precedent, and will encourage other Premier League sides to scour the lower leagues and take a punt on a rookie.
We have seen Peterborough, Fulham and Manchester United reap the benefits, and I'm sure Palace will too.
This move, along with the recent move of Mansfield striker Matt Green to Birmingham and the success of Burnley striker Charlie Austin, formerly of Poole, will provide hope for the non-leaguers who have given up hope of making it to the big time.
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