McDonalds, RAC and NASA – breeding grounds for Premier League footballers

After Jamie Vardy’s hustling display against Manchester United, the media have been picking up on his rapid rise from FC Halifax Town to the Premier League.

Most of us love the story of a non-league player making his way up the pyramid, and no doubt many fan forums will be spiked with the enthusiasm that comes after a performance from a player like Vardy for their clubs to take a chance on a Conference player and unearth a star and bargain – although when Leicester City signed Vardy, £1m for a Conference striker certainly wasn’t considered great business by some.

Unfortunately for Vardy, his story doesn’t contain a sound bite for the media to cling onto and for commentators to regurgitate every time he shows up on our TV screen. Anyone out there who doesn’t know which England player previously worked in a beetroot factory?

Several past and present players worked in the construction industry before getting their breakthrough, but other than labouring on a building site, here are some of the more interesting career paths to becoming a Premier League footballer:

Malcolm Christie

Christie made a name for himself with Derby County and then Middlesbrough, in the process earning 11 caps for England’s U21 team. Prior to signing for Derby County in 1998 at the age of 19, Christie worked at his local Somerfield supermarket stacking shelves whilst playing part-time for Deeping Rangers and Nuneaton Borough.

Jurgen Klinsmann

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 22.25.09Klinsmann didn’t exactly work his way up the lower leagues, but he did have a contingency plan in place in case his football career didn’t take off. Klinsmann’s family owns and operates a bakery and even after he signed a professional contract with Stuttgart Kickers at the age of 16, he studied to become a baker, qualified with a baker’s diploma and finished his apprenticeship in the family business.

The family bakery is still going strong and received good PR during the World Cup by baking a batch of cookies celebrating Germany’s 7–1 win over Brazil.

Shaka Hislop

Before signing for Reading, Hislop was studying mechanical engineering at Howard University in the US having earned a scholarship to play college ‘soccer’. He also interned at NASA on their Space Station Freedom Project. He was spotted by a Reading scout whilst playing in the NCAA and signed for the club after a successful trial.

Iain Dowie

Iain Dowie’s not just a pretty face! Like Hislop, Dowie studied engineering at university. Aged 16, Dowie was released by Southampton and returned to Hatfield (his place of birth) to study for a Master’s in Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire whilst playing part-time non-league football.

Upon graduating, Dowie then started working for British Aerospace and continued to play in the non-leagues before signing a professional contract with Luton Town aged 23.

Simeon Jackson

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 22.21.25Similar to Jamie Vardy, Jackson’s rise to the Premier League was a romantic one starting in non-league football. Jackson moved to England at the age of 15 and started his career as a part-time player with non-league Dulwich Hamlet.

At the start of his time with Dulwich, he spent a month working at McDonalds to earn some money after his move from Jamaica. He then earned a move to Rushden & Diamonds and spent four years with the club before moving the Gillingham, and later Norwich City.

Jermaine Beckford

Beckford began his career with the Chelsea youth team before he was subsequently rejected. He then signed for semi-professional Wealdstone of the Isthmian Premier League and was with the team for three seasons.

During that time, Beckford also worked as a windscreen fitter for RAC. He signed his first professional contract with Leeds United at the age of 23 and a transfer value of £45,000.

George Boyd

After Boyd was released by Charlton as a schoolboy, he signed a semi-professional contract with Stevenage Borough and worked at a sweet shop at Hitchin train station near Stevenage to subsidise his income and pay for his ticket back home to Kent on the weekends.

He spent five years at Stevenage before moving to Peterborough United for a then Conference record fee of £260,000.

Henrik Larsson

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 22.23.04Larsson started playing for the senior team of his local Third Division side, Högaborgs, whilst he was still at school, aged 17.

Once he finished school at 18, he began working as a fruit packer and continued playing semi-professional football.

He signed his first professional contract with Helsingborg at the age of 21, earning £75 per week. The rest, they say, is part of Celtic history.

The Author

Liam Curley

Spanish translator following La Liga action, Millwall fan and lover of the Premier League during it's early years.

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