In this list, we will look at the top 5 most expensive departures in non-league history, and what happened to the players that left to join the Football League. One club in particular certainly has an eye for players in non-league football, appearing on this list three times!
Kicking off this list of the most expensive departures from Non-League clubs is Marcus Maddison, who signed for the Posh for a fee of around £270,000 from Gateshead.
Maddison began his career in the youth setups of Newcastle United, he then joined St Johnstone in Scotland, before making the move to non-league side Gateshead in 2013. Maddison settled in well, and in his first season made 29 league appearances, and scored nine times from his attacking midfield position.
In the following season, Maddison found the best form of his early career, finding the net four times in the opening five games, earning himself a move to League One side Peterborough. Within months of joining, Maddison made an instant impact, winning the Football League Young Player of the Month in October, just two months after he joined the club.
That season, Maddison finished well, already breaking into the first team and playing consistently, as well as scoring eight times in 30 appearances in all competitions. Maddison would go onto stay at Peterborough for six seasons, playing 212 league games for the club. Upon leaving the side in 2020, Maddison moved to Hull and then to Charlton, but never really reached the heights that he was playing at for Peterborough. He has since retired, citing his 'diminishing love for the sport' as the reason.
The fourth most expensive departure from Non-League is Englishman Nathan Thomas, who joined Championship side Sheffield United from Hartlepool in the 2017/18 season.
Thomas signed for Hartlepool in January of the 2015/16 season from Scottish side Motherwell. Initially, Hartlepool were a Football League side, and upon joining them had a good start for the side. In his first full season for the club, he began the season scoring all five of the side’s goals in September, one of which went on to being Hartlepool’s goal of the decade.
However, that season the side would be relegated to the National League in dramatic fashion, and Thomas attracted interest from many sides in the higher leagues. Thomas would go onto sign for Sheffield United for £300k on a three-year deal. However, his time at Sheffield United didn’t turn out well, appearing in just one league game over the course of a three-year span that saw him play most of his football on loan, mostly in League Two for the likes of Notts County and Gillingham.
Upon leaving the club, Thomas would move back to Scotland to Hamilton Academical, and from there his career would only go downwards.
At number three, it is maybe one of the most known players out of the list, that being former Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley.
Lolley joined non-league side Kidderminster in July 2013 after a successful trial, and hit the ground running straight away. In 21 appearances for the side, Lolley scored 9 times, as well as a hattrick in an FA Cup third round replay against Peterborough. After his fast start, Championship side Huddersfield wasted no time in bringing Lolley to the John Smith’s stadium.
He struggled to get into the Championship side, and his first start didn’t come until the last game of the 13/14 season, where he scored and assisted two in a 4-1 win over Watford. The following season was no different, he managed just three league starts, scoring twice.
In his third year at the club, Lolley began to get more football, appearing in 32 league games. In January 2018, he signed for Nottingham Forest, and succeeded massively there, winning the player of the season award in 2019, and played a part in the team that gained promotion to the Premier League. After issues with the club, he joined Australian side Sydney FC, where he still plays his football now and is a real fan favourite.
Shaun Brisley is the next name on this list, as he joined Championship side Peterborough from Macclesfield Town in 2012.
Brisley was at Macclesfield all the way through his youth career and featured 124 times in league football for the side at centre back. However, in February of 2012, Brisley joined Peterborough on an emergency loan due to the club’s injuries, and had a great start, making his debut in a 3-1 win over Blackpool, appearing in 31 games that season. In May, Brisley joined permanently for £300,000, however, his impressive first year at the club was not enough to save them, as they were relegated down to League One.
The next season, Brisley would score at Wembley in the Football League Trophy final, which his side would go onto win, beating Chesterfield 3-1. His season as a whole was relatively good, despite being sent off twice, and the following season he was sent out on loan to fellow League One side Scunthorpe United for six months. Upon return, Brisley was transfer listed by new manager Dave Robertson, and was put back on loan to League Two side Northampton Town.
An injury hampered this loan, and once fit, he failed to make his way back into Peterborough’s side, and after another loan for the remainder of the season, he joined Carlisle United on a free transfer.
1- Jack Taylor – from Barnet to Peterborough – 19/20 – £520,000
Barnet are a hotbed for young talent and have enjoyed a flourishing relationship with Peterborough over the years. The transfer of Jack Taylor- the most expensive player in Non-League history was no different.
Taylor began his career in the youth teams of Chelsea, joining the club at just six years of age. However, at just 14 he made the switch to Barnet and joined them in 2012. It didn’t take long for Taylor to begin to impress at Barnet, and he made his debut for the side as a 15-year-old, in a Herts Senior Cup match against Hatfield.
Three years later Taylor would make his league debut in League Two, and from there grew closer to becoming a regular. The breakout season for him was in the first half of the 2019-20 season whilst Barnet were in the National League as a 20-year-old. In the first half of the season, he had managed seven goals in 24 games, as well as captaining the side twice.
After such an impressive start to the season, Taylor would start to gain interest from clubs of a higher division, and Peterborough swooped in for his signature, paying over £500,000 to secure the talented midfielders signature.
For the Posh, he would play 138 times, scoring 22 goals in the process, and played a part in the side that was promoted to the Championship during his first full season. More recently, in 2023 Taylor signed for Ipswich Town in the Championship, and is regular in their side that is pushing for the Premier League. At just 25 years old, he still has a long career ahead of him, and it could be a very successful one indeed.
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