Will Magee returns to TFN with a look at the brightest young prospects in the Ryman Premier…
Young people. What are most of them up to these days? Going to the cinema, learning to drive, being educated, discovering the true meaning of heartbreak, drinking litre bottles of cider in the park; all of these things rank high on the average young person’s list of pastimes. Then there are those special young people, those who are really quite good at playing football. Many of them occupy themselves not by indulging in ordinary activities, but instead by playing in the seventh tier of the English footballing pyramid – the Ryman Premier League. Some of them are doing an exceptionally good job of it, and deserve a bit of recognition. Who the ruddy hell are these bright young things? Well, let’s find out.
Nathan McDonald, goalkeeper, Enfield Town
24-year-old Town keeper Nathan McDonald was superb this campaign. A vital part of the side’s ill-starred push to the play offs, he played in all forty-six league fixtures and kept eighteen clean sheets in the process. He received five club ‘Man of the Match’ awards, plus a luxury accolade from me for his valiant performance in Enfield’s one-nil home loss to Dulwich Hamlet. Rumours that manager Bradley Quinton has taken to calling him ‘Doctor Octohands’ are as yet unconfirmed.
Charlie Goode, centre back, Hendon
Master of the deft slide tackle, 19-year-old Charlie Goode had something of a breakthrough 2014/15. He featured thirty-six times for Hendon in all competitions, helped the club win both the Isthmian League Cup and the London Senior Cup, directed the team’s defence for almost all of their late twenty-five match unbeaten run and only just missed out on promotion to the Conference South via the play offs. Despite the play-off final loss to Margate, his potential to rise above the Ryman League is clear. Fully deserved his recent call up to Paul Fairclough’s England C team. One of the very, very few central defenders to get my ‘Man of the Match’ award.
Ethan Pinnock, centre back, Dulwich Hamlet
Lithe and willowy, Ethan Pinnock has seen a lot of first-team action for a 20-year-old. He played fifty-one times – yes, fifty-one – for the Pink & Blues this season, settling in at centre half while still able to slot into the midfield when called upon. He received eight official ‘Man of the Match’ awards over the course of the campaign, before collecting a (possibly) unprecedented end-of-year triple as ‘Players’ Player of the Season’, ‘Manager’s Player of the Season’ and ‘Supporters’ Player of the Season’. He can also grow cool moustaches. Bright future ahead.
Oliver Sprague, left back, Hendon
Another young talent in the Hendon ranks, ex-Chelsea trainee Oliver Sprague played fifty games for the Greens in 2014/15. A confident 21-year-old full back, his ability to produce a cute final ball proved as valuable to the side as his defensive diligence this season. An ever-present in a terrific, two-cup campaign. Also enjoys acai berry smoothies. Probably.
Karl Oliyide, attacking midfielder, Wingate & Finchley
A rollicking 20-year-old midfielder with an eye for goal, Karl Oliyide provided much of Wingate & Finchley’s attacking impetus for a season in which the club comfortably topped its best-ever points haul and finished a respectable twelfth in the league. Scored nine times, a few of those absolute corkers. Gave some brilliantly chilled out interviews; will not be uncomfortable in front of the non-league mass media in years to come.
Mitchell Gilbey, attacking midfielder, East Thurrock United
Spirited and snappy, East Thurrock United’s hierarchy will be glad to be keeping 21-year-old midfielder Mitchell Gilbey for the foreseeable future. Made forty-nine appearances this season; scored ten goals, including a nicely-taken brace away at Dulwich Hamlet. Not the biggest, but bloody determined. Loves wasabi peas. I imagine.
Kiernan Hughes-Mason, striker, Leatherhead
A former Arsenal youngster, Kiernan Hughes-Mason spent his season scoring with remarkable consistency for the belatedly resurgent Leatherhead. The 23-year-old racked up seventeen strikes for the team, with a further five assists suggesting he isn’t just a goalscorer. Showed equal consistency in his collection of cautions – two reds included, one in the away match at Enfield – but if he tones down the rudimentary tackles he should be, as they say, ‘golden’.
Luke Wanadio, winger, Dulwich Hamlet
Signed by Hamlet halfway through the season, 22-year-old winger Luke Wanadio showed his tricky skills from the off. Terrorised full backs. Attacked with pace and intent. Did step overs. He’ll want more consistency in terms of goals and assists in the future, but a relatively undisrupted year should do him the world of good.
Further writing from Will can be found on The Luxury Fan.