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Bargains to be had in English lower leagues

Cahill what a bargain!Yesterday Tim Cahill marked his 150th league start for Everton with the winning goal at Wigan’s DW Stadium.

He has proved an incredible success for the Toffees and considering Everton paid just £1.5million for the Aussie he’s proved a steal.

Everton boss David Moyes took a gamble on a Championship player and has been rewarded handsomely with goals, loyalty and hard work.

Cahill’s rise from Championship player to top Premier League midfielder got me thinking about some other players who were signed from lower league sides and have proved bargains. Here are some that spring to mind.

Success Stories

Tim Cahill (Everton)

When Tim Cahill played for Millwall lots of Premier League scouts and teams watched him but didn’t think he was good enough to play in midfield. They just couldn’t see how to fit him in their teams. However David Moyes knew exactly what he was getting and developed a formation which got the best out of the Aussie.

And ever since he signed he’s popped up with important goals and generally been a nuisance to defenders. He never gives up and has shown tremendous loyalty to Everton. He had been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Juventus but stayed at Everton. He may be getting older but the goals still keep coming and he must be one of the best bargains in the last few years.

Joleon Lescott (Everton)

When David Moyes signed a relatively unknown injury-prone defender from Wolves eyebrows were raised and questions asked over the alleged £5million fee. However in the following three years Lescott proved a superb player for the club and forged a solid partnership with Phil Jagielka last season. He also won his first international caps while at Goodison Park.

A controversial move to Manchester City for a fee believed to be £23million might have caused Moyes great frustration and annoyance but the deal meant the club made a huge profit on a player who has failed to impress at Eastlands. He proved a bargain for Everton but probably won’t for City.

Chris Smalling (Fulham, soon to be Manchester United)

The 20 year-old might not have caused a big impact so far in his Fulham career but he’s caused such a stir that Manchester United have already agreed to sign the defender next summer. The youngster has impressed enough in his limited amount of appearances to win his first under-21 caps for England.

Fulham signed him from Maidstone United in the summer of 2008 for a fee of just £50,000. The Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson must be delighted to have snapped up the youngster. And although the fee hasn’t been revealed the Cottagers are likely to make a major profit on the youngster.

Scott Dann (Birmingham)

When Alex McLeish signed the 22 year-old from Coventry there were questions over whether the young Liverpudlian would prove good enough for the Premier League. The youngster has blown away any doubts over his ability as he has helped Birmingham become one toughest teams to score against in the Premier League. The £3.5million fee seems like a steal for a young man who appears to have a big future ahead of him.

Roger Johnson (Birmingham)

Just like central-defensive partner Dann there were questions marks over his signing when he arrived from Cardiff City in the summer. The big defender has earned rave reviews alongside Dann in the Birmingham defence and some have even spoken of an England call-up for the 26 year-old. That might prove difficult for the ex- Wycombe captain but like so many in the Birmingham side, he has proved a lot of doubters wrong.

Future

According to recent reports Wigan has signed Crystal Palace striker Victor Moses. Could he prove to be the next Championship star to prove a star in the Premier League, only time will tell, but the youngster seems to have all the attributes to become a very good player.

It also seems that Leeds hotshot Jermaine Beckford could be heading for the Premier League next summer. Everton are being strongly linked with the former Wealdstone star and could sign him on a free transfer in July. Surely Beckford couldn’t step straight into the Premier League and carry on scoring so many goals. Or could he?

Cautionary tale

He seems a natural goal scorer but stepping up into the Premier League isn’t easy, just ask my namesake David Nugent at Portsmouth. He is the cautionary tale of a good Championship player moving to a Premier League side and being completely out of his depth. Thankfully though he has had a better time with Burnley and it looks as if he could sign for the Clarets permanently.

Answer

The above players all proved that there are good players plying their trades in the lower leagues of English football. It may be hard for Premier League sides to find them but they do exist. Maybe signing players from the lower leagues is the answer to the issue of too many expensive foreign imports.

The likes of David Moyes, Roy Hodgson and Alex McLeish think it’s the answer; maybe the other managers should take heed and follow their colleagues. They may just sign a few gems of their own.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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