As you travel further down the football pyramid, you are well capable of unearthing a diamond in the rough. Just have a look at the current England team, where several started out as League Two players.
League Two Players Who Deserve a Chance in the Higher Divisions
England Squad Made Up of League Two Players As Graduates
Jamie Vardy was a mainstay in the lower leagues, Jordan Pickford managed to establish himself as a first-team regular after impressing at various third and fourth tier loan spells and Ollie Watkins began his career at Exeter City in the bottom tier of the Football League.
It shows that no matter how far down the table you look, there are always players who catch the eye, worthy at a shot higher up.
Having looked at League One players who are worthy of second tier football, we now turn our attention to five players who everyone should be keeping tabs on and could do even better in a higher league.
Matt Jay (Exeter City)
Matt Jay has never played higher than the second tier and when you look at his stats this season, it screams that of a player who is ready for a step-up in football.
Having broken onto the scene after loan stints at Weston-super-Mare, Hayes and Yeading United and Truro City, the 25-year-old has really broken onto the scene for his parent club this campaign.
Last year, he had eight goal contributions in 14 games. It was an impressive haul, one that thrust him into regular consideration for game time this season. He’s grasped the chance with both hands and with the most games he’s ever played in a season under his belt (38 to date), he has 24 goal contributions.
That’s a rate of 0.70 goal contributions per 90 minutes – an eye-catching stat that has him as the fourth best in this area in the entire league. He’s also the third highest goalscorer, has the sixth most assists and has the third best goals per 90 minute rate.
His positioning belies a footballing brain that is way beyond his level and leads to him being in the right place at the right time to contribute to his team at the right end of the field. He also offers a level of versatility, having also played as an attacking midfielder and not just an out-and-out forward.
If Exeter can’t clinch promotion this season, he could be a steal for a team in a bigger league.
Paul Mullin (Cambridge United)
This list had to include the top goalscorer in League Two didn’t it? And with good reason.
With exquisite finishing ability and 28 goals to his name so far this season, it would be foolish to not mention the Paul Mullin. As a 24-year-old, he did have a chance to try and shine in the third tier for Tranmere Rovers but after starting just nine games, he only managed three goals.
It led to an initial short-term deal to his current club Cambridge, where he has since penned a permanent deal.
He’s one of the main reasons his club are so high up the table and are likely to seal promotion at the end of the campaign, where he’ll relish the chance to keep up the good work a league higher.
It’ll be intriguing to see if he can carry on his goalscoring prowess in a league he has previously graced, given more starts and with more chances created for him to try and finish.
Vaclav Hladky (Salford City)
Now to the other end of the field and Salford shot-stopper Vaclav Hladky. The 30-year-old has never braced English football until his moved to League Two with the Ammies but has taken to it like a duck to water.
Despite playing in 40 games for the club this season, he has conceded only 33 goals. In fact, thanks to his brilliant showings in between the posts, Salford have conceded the least amount of goals in the entire league.
They might not be higher up the table as they would have liked but they’ve been relatively solid at the back and that comes largely down to Hladky.
He handles the ball superbly and his lightening quick reflexes can often help keep his side in the game. Again, it would be interesting to see how he fares with strikers at higher levels coming up against him and whether he would be able to concede as little as he has so far.
If he can carry this kind of form up the leagues though, he could finally be cracking England and proving to be a very solid keeper at 30-years-old.
Ben Tozer (Cheltenham Town)
It really is a wonder that the defender hasn’t managed to secure a regular spot at a team higher up in the EFL so far in his career.
At 31-years-old, Ben Tozer has become a fourth tier stalwart. If there is anyone who deserves a chance to lead his side to promotion and try and properly test himself at least a league higher, it’s Tozer.
He may be edging towards the latter stages of his career now but he shows no signs of slowing down and is contributing now more than ever. With seven assists to his name so far, he has the most of any Cheltenham Town player despite featuring as part of the side’s backline.
As a 23-year-oldd, he did make one appearance in the third tier for Colchester United but it was a lone cameo and he has since plied his trade for various sides in League Two instead.
Now, with over 100 games at his current club to his name and with the player considerably strong at the heart of Cheltenham’s defence, he deserves a chance to at least have a regular run in League One before his career comes to a close – and he could certainly prove that he has playing below his level all this time.
Ricardo Santos (Bolton Wanderers)
Ricardo Santos was a mere youngster last time he graced League One football and, although he featured heavily for Peterborough United playing in 62 games for the club, he was let go to Barnet as a 21-year-old.
Since then, he has proven his worth and worked his way up through the lower tiers. After suffering a relegation with Barnet, he came back stronger, helping his team to secure promotion back into the fourth tier.
He then joined current club Bolton, where his years of experience so far have come to the fore. Now, he has been an essential part of the side and has helped them shoot up the table and into the automatic promotion places.
He deserves his chance to tackle the third tier again. He’s been a regular in the team and has regularly been solid, both defensively and offensively. With well over 150 games to his name now (and bear in mind he is still only 25), he can take on the third tier with renewed vigour and can show everyone what he is truly about with his new team – if they seal promotion that is.