West Ham made me realise Rick Astley was right – so many Premier League stars come from humble beginnings

I DON’T think I’ve ever thought deeply about 80s pop star Rick Astley’s lyrics before but he was right — ‘Never Gonna Give You Up!’

Watching Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio midweek made me realise there are a stack of footballers who have come from humble beginnings.

Karren Brady writes exclusively for Sun Sport


Karren Brady writes exclusively for Sun SportCredit: PA
Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen made the WEst Ham chief think about Rick Astley


Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen made the WEst Ham chief think about Rick AstleyCredit: Getty

Some are even in Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad. It just shows never, ever give up on the dream.

Our own Bowen was turned down by a host of clubs before making it at his home-town team Hereford United.

He scored his first goal for them at Alfreton. From there he caught the eye and went to Hull, where his performances attracted our attention and even though Bowen was a late developer, he has flourished.

Antonio started his footballing journey at Tooting & Mitcham before signing for Reading but even then he was loaned out to a variety of clubs only to hit his straps at Sheffield Wednesday.

Look at Ollie Watkins. He was farmed out to Weston Super Mare on loan in his teens while at Exeter City. 

In this week where betting on the nags at Cheltenham has been all the rage, you’d have got pretty good odds on Watkins leading the line for Aston Villa in 2024.

It doesn’t just stop there. Wolves captain Max Kilman couldn’t get into non-league Welling United’s side, but three seasons at National League side Maidenhead and he ended up at Molineux. Incredible.

Another centre-half, 62-cap Harry Maguire, was already the grand old age of 22 when he was loaned out to Wigan.


John Stones started his professional life at Barnsley before making the move to Everton and then Manchester City.

Another central defender, Roma’s Chris Smalling, started at this season’s FA Cup giantkillers Maidstone United and did not make his Premier League debut until he was nearly 20.

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James Maddison left his teenage years on loan at Aberdeen, before breaking through in midfield at Norwich and then on to Leicester and Spurs.

Jamie Vardy may be firing Leicester back to the Prem but as a kid he was released by Sheffield Wednesday and started his senior career at Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Newcastle’s Callum Wilson spent his teenage years at Kettering and Tamworth, while his Toon team-mate Nick Pope was released by Ipswich and played for a host of non-league clubs before landing up at Burnley.

Andy Robertson could help Liverpool win the title this season, but it wasn’t looking too rosy for him when he was rejected by Celtic and ended up at amateur club Queen’s Park.

Another late bloomer John McGinn was in his mid-20s when he moved to Aston Villa after  starting his footballing career at St Mirren.

Despite society’s obsession with youth success, it’s not realistic to expect that of many of us.

Things take time. OK, yes, like a fine wine. Or keeping to the boozy theme, like the famous Guinness advert where we are told ‘Good things come to those who wait’.

That is so true. The all-time top World Cup goalscorer, as any sports quizmaster will tell you, is Germany’s Miroslav Klose with 16.

But aged 20 Klose was playing in the SEVENTH tier of German football.

Turn on Match of the Day this weekend and chances are Ian Wright will be on the pundit panel. That’s the same Ian Wright who, just shy of his 22nd birthday, was snapped up by Crystal Palace from non-league Greenwich.

We started with Rick Astley and we’ll end with Take That. With some footballers, you must ‘Have a little . . . patience’.

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