If you were talk about the great youth academies in England, the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham United would be the first ones that come to mind. However, there is one side that has helped nurture plenty of Premier League talent – and I bet you haven’t even heard of them.
Dulwich Hamlet, who play in the Isthmian League Division One South (how about that for a mouthful), currently seven levels below the Premier League. However, a quick glance at a list of their former players reveals the true value of the club from Champion Hill.
The first name that jumps out is Tottenham striker Peter Crouch, who spent time on loan with the Hamlet in 2000. Although the loan spell lasted just six games, Crouch, who was just a teenager at the time, managed to score the first goal of his career. Ironically, the club that sent him on loan there was his current club Spurs. As we know, Crouch has gone on to have a great career, spending time with the likes of Liverpool, Portsmouth and Spurs – as well as a becoming regular member of the England side.
Moving down the list, the next name that you notice is Marlon King, who has recently signed with Championship side Coventry. King started his footballing career as a Youth with the Hamlet, before moving on to become a trainee at nearby Barnet. Along with spells at Gillingham and Leeds, King spent several seasons in the Premier League with the likes of Watford and Wigan.
Wolves’ defender George Elokobi is another player to have benefitted from the football education offered by the club. He spent just one season with Dulwich shortly after arriving in the country, before he was snapped up by Colchester. The left-back then moved to Wolves, who he helped gain promotion to the Premier League and helped them avoid relegation the following year. He has also recently been called up the Cameroon national squad.
Burnley defender Leon Cort began his football career as a youth player at Champion Hill. After proving himself in the lower leagues with Southend, he went on to have spells with Crystal Palace and Hull. A loan spell at Stoke was made permanent and he played in the Premier League under Tony Pulis. He joined Burnley last year but suffered relegation from the top flight.
Norwich striker Simeon Jackson also began his career with the Hamlet. Moving to the country from his native Canada, Jackson joined Dulwich in an attempt to kick-start a career in England. A prolific career with Rushden and Diamonds helped earn him trials with Premier League clubs, but he settled for a move to Gillingham. After proving himself at League level, he joined Norwich on their return to the Championship earlier this year. He has also earned caps for Canada.
It’s not just modern day footballers that have progressed from Dulwich. Alan Pardew, who is currently known for his managerial career, can list the Hamlet as one of his first clubs in the mid-80s. A playing career included time with Crystal Palace and Charlton, before going on to have successful spells in charge Reading, West Ham and Charlton (again).
Striker George Ndah, who is perhaps not as well known as some of the other names, also began his career with Dulwich. He went on to play for Crystal Palace and Swindon, before coming a cult hero at Wolves, before injury forced him to retire in 2006. Another retired player who started with Dulwich is Carl Asaba, who enjoyed success with the likes of Brentford, Gillingham and Sheffield United.
There are plenty of other players who spent time with the Hamlet and have gone on to play in the Football League. The modern game has seen young players move for millions, but it is important to remember the quality of players that could cost next to nothing, but prove to be priceless.
Written By Rob Fletcher