In this list, we will look at the top 5 most expensive arrivals of all time in the non-league, and how they performed after signing.
Starting this list off is certainly the most famous of names on this list, and that is Premier League winner and Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy.
Vardy joined Conference side Fleetwood Town at the beginning of the 2011 season, where he joined from Halifax Town, after leading his team to the Isthmian Northern Premier League title. Vardy began his career in the Sheffield Wednesday youth system but was released at 16.
From there, he joined Stocksbridge Park Steels, before joining Halifax for just £15,000 four years later. In his one full season for the club, Vardy was unsurprisingly the club’s top scorer, with 25 goals in 37 appearances. He then went onto score three goals in four in the following season, before joining Fleetwood for £146,000.
In that season, Vardy was unstoppable, in just 36 games, he scored 31 times, and had 17 assists in the process, as well as three goals in the FA Cup, where he was key in helping the non-league side reach the Third Round of the cup, before being knocked out by Blackpool. He also guided the Cod Army into the football league for the first time in the club’s history, as well as being the league’s top scorer.
After such an impressive spell at the conference club, Vardy would leave them just a year later after joining, moving to Championship side Leicester City for £1 million. From there, as we all know, his career began to become legendary. He helped Leicester reach the Premier League in 2013/14, and two years later they became champions of the league, a feat many believed to be impossible. In that season, Vardy also broke the record for the most goals in consecutive games in the Premier League with eleven, a record that still stands today.
Vardy has also gone on to be capped by England 26 times, and to this day is one of the greatest English players to play in the conference league.
In the 2010/11 season, Crawley Town became one of the most disliked clubs in the country, as they had new significant financial backing, and bought in 17 new players during the summer window, in a bid to become a football league club. They also signed six more in the winter window, and it would eventually pay off, as they set the record for the most points in a season at that time, winning the league with 105 points.
The last of those 23 signings was Scottish right back Willie Gibson, who joined Crawley from Dunfermline of the Scottish Championship in January, for around £150,000. They had tried to sign him a season earlier, however Gibson rejected the offer, but with more money on the table, it was hard to refuse.
Gibson would have to wait until February to make his first start for the club and scored his first goal in a 5-0 win vs Histon in May. The Scotsman featured in the conference fourteen times in the season that the Red Devils signed him, and never suffered a league loss for the side.
Gibson would also start against Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup, where his side was knocked out at Old Trafford.
After that initial season, Gibson had become homesick, and moved back to Scotland on a loan deal, but once that was over, he would leave the club by mutual consent, and stay in the lower leagues of Scotland for the rest of his career.
At number three in this list is Ben Tozer, who joined Wrexham from Cheltenham Town at the beginning of the 2021/22 season. In 2021, Wrexham was taken over by Hollywood actors Rob McElhenny and Ryan Reynolds, and they were attempting to fund promotion back to the Football League for the first time since 2008.
In doing so, the club made ten signings in the summer window, bringing in the likes of Paul Mullin, James Jones, Aaron Hayden, and the most expensive of the window, Ben Tozer. Tozer had experience in leagues well above the National League at the time, playing in League One when he was signed for Wrexham, and was a key man for the Red Dragons.
In the 2021/22 season, the centre back featured in 44 games in the league season, but they failed the owner’s goal of promotion, after losing in the playoff semi-final to Grimsby 5-4, after one of the most thrilling matches of all time. However, just a year later, Tozer played every single minute of all 46 matches that season, and Wrexham was promoted to League 2, winning the league with a record 111 points after being neck and neck with Notts County all season. Tozer also managed four goals in that season and managed himself a spot in the National League Team of the Year.
Tozer has continued to be a key part of Wrexham’s success this season too, captaining the side in more than half of their games, as they make a push for back-to-back promotions and is known for his powerful long throws.
Much like Willie Gibson, Richard Brodie was bought by Crawley in the 2010/11 season. Brodie was a 22-year-old striker, who at the time was playing his football at York City, and the season before he joined was named as the Conference player of the season, after he led York to the playoff final, where they eventually lost at Wembley, and finished the season with 34 goals.
Brodie did actually start the 10/11 season with York and had a £125,000 bid from Crawley rejected in the summer, but they eventually made the signing just three minutes before the window closed, and Brodie was a Crawley player.
In his first start for the club, Brodie scored in 2-0 win, but from there things wasn’t as pretty. After Crawley rejected a bid from an unnamed League 2 side in the January window, Brodie’s form dropped, and he struggled to really become a regular starter in the side. His first season wasn’t terrible by any means, ending the campaign with 13 goals for the season, and was of course a part of the 105-point season that saw the side move to League Two.
Following that season, Crawley manager at the time Steve Evans said that he “has failed to settle away from his family home”, and because of this he spent the next season on loan at two different clubs. He was then released by Crawley the next season, and never was able to reach his potential and have a chance to play in the Football League, much like other costly signing Willie Gibson.
The number one in this list is Ollie Palmer, who also joined Wrexham after the takeover of Rob McElhanney and Ryan Reynolds. Palmer joined Wrexham halfway through the season from League one side AFC Wimbledon, and was an instant impact, scoring 15 goals in 21 league games for the Red Dragons.
When Palmer joined Wrexham, it certainly raised some eyebrows, as he was playing regular football for Wimbledon in a competition two leagues above Wrexham. He also hadn’t played for a side outside out of the Football League for eight years, but with Wrexham’s new philosophy, it was a move that he believed made sense coming into his 30s. His new side would miss out on a spot in League two that season, losing a playoff thriller 5-4 to Grimsby Town.
However, the move would eventually pay off, as Wrexham gained promotion to League Two the next season after winning the league and breaking the record for the most points accumulated in a season. Palmer would feature in 45/46 games that season too and scored 16 goals in those games.
Palmer has also scored five times this season too, and Wrexham look just as dangerous in a league above and could gain back-to-back promotions with the Red Dragons.
Users must be 18+. If you are having trouble with gambling then help and advice can be found at begambleaware.org. Please Play Responsibly.
Trading financial products carries a high risk to your capital, especially trading leverage products such as CFDs. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.