The landscape of non-League, and particularly the National League, has changed dramatically in recent decades, with money flooding into some clubs. Many National League clubs have turned entirely professional and are now paying the same equivalent or higher wages than some clubs in the Football League.
The star players in non-League can now earn a decent living representing a National League club. Here are the top-five earners in non-League football:
|Player Name||Club||Reported weekly wage|
|Paul Mullin||Wrexham||£4,000 per week|
|Ben Tozer||Wrexham||£4,000 per week|
|Paddy Madden||Stockport County||£3,500 per week|
|Aaron Hayden||Wrexham||£3,000 per week|
|Antoni Sarcevic||Stockport County||£3,000 per week|
Paul Mullin (Wrexham, £4,000 per week)
The Liverpool-born forward has made a bright start at the Welsh club after a prolific season in League Two with Cambridge United. Reportedly, the former Tranmere Rovers star is currently earning around £4,000 per week, which is unsurprising considering the resources offered at Wrexham by their relatively new ownership duo, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Mullin has been brought in to score the goals that will help Wrexham to return to the Football League after a long absence. His early goalscoring form suggests that he could play a big part in the Welsh club’s future endeavours.
Ben Tozer (Wrexham, £4,000 per week)
The centre-back is reported to be on the same weekly wage as his teammate Mullin at the Welsh club. Tozer could become a key figure in the centre of his team’s defence. Tozer is highly experienced at Football League level. He started his professional career at Swindon Town but only made one appearance for the club before a big switch to Newcastle United, where he made just first-team appearances.
He represented several lower-league clubs but is best known for five years at Northampton Town, where he made over 150 league appearances.
Paddy Madden (Stockport County, £3,500 per week)
The Irish forward is another highly-paid veteran (by non-league standards) looking to help his team return to the football league. County signed Madden from Fleetwood Town for an undisclosed fee in March 2021.
Madden had previously been relatively prolific in the Football League for the likes of Scunthorpe United before a switch to Fleetwood in 2018. Like the first two players on this list, he should arguably be playing at a higher level. However, if he performs at his best, then he has a chance of helping his team back to League Two in the near future.
Aaron Hayden (Wrexham, £3,000 per week)
Tozer’s central defensive partner started his professional career at Midlands club Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was then sent out on several loans to the likes of Newport County, Bromley, Telford and Stourbridge. He eventually left Wolves permanently in 2019 when he joined Carlisle United on a free transfer, making 62 league appearances for the Cumbrian club before switching to Wrexham in 2021 for another undisclosed fee, signing a three-year deal with the Welsh club.
Antoni Sarcevic (Stockport County, £3,000)
The experienced central midfielder is now a veteran of lower-league football, having started his career in the academy of Manchester City. After being released by City at 15, Sarcevic moved to non-League Woodley Sports (Now Stockport Sports F.C) before spells with the likes of Crewe Alexandra, Chester, Fleetwood Town, Shrewsbury Town, Plymouth Argyle and Bolton Wanderers.
Sarcevic moved to County in 2021 on a free transfer, signing a contract that will run until the summer of 2024. His experience could be vital for Stockport, whose owner Mark Scott has big ambitions for the north west outfit.
Money now talks in the National League
In decades gone by, players may never have considered a move to National League clubs. However, some of the more ambitious clubs in the fifth tier now pay their players Football League wages. That means players are happier to drop into the National League to ply their trade.
The arrival of cash-rich owners at certain clubs in the National League, such as Wrexham and Stockport County for example, has no doubt raised the level of quality on display in the National League. For some, that is not a good thing and creates an unfair advantage.
However, for fans of the clubs whom ambitious new owners have bought, it could be the start of an exciting adventure that could end up with their teams playing in the Football League in the near future.