Another player has left Berkshire Non-League soccer this week, bound for the the EFL.
Josh Coley played just a solitary season for Maidenhead United. A strange season, a season played out almost entirely behind closed doors. Even so, the growing profile of the National League is such that clubs in the EFL noticed the 22 year old impressing on a weekly basis for Alan Devonshire’s team.
Coley’s progress – 5 goals in 27 starts and named on the bench by Devonshire a further 12 times – attracted the attention of League Two Exeter City who have offered Coley the chance to resume life as a professional footballer. Grecians Gaffer Matt Taylor remarked: “Josh is a good attacking player and someone we’ve watched consistently throughout the last season. He has had a taste of a professional environment at Norwich, and in Scotland, and that will prepare him really well for what is next.”
Taylor has clearly done his homework as he rightly eludes to what, on paper, looks a rather rather stop-start career for Coley thus far. Born in Stevenage but moving north as a youngster, he started out at York City before returning south with Arlesey Town in the Spartan South Midlands League and then crossing the border from Bedfordshire into the Herts Senior County League with Letchworth Garden City Eagles.
A move to Southern Leaguers Hitchin Town materialised in 2016 but it was out on loan with the likes of Histon, Arlesey, Langford and Baldock Town where Coley really began to impress, combining part-time football with his job as a bricklayer.
A big break seemed to have come Coley’s way in July 2018 when he signed for Norwich City to become pro at last. A regular in the Canaries Under 23 side, he joined Scottish Championship side Dunfermline on loan the following year, scoring once in eleven appearances in Fife. Ultimately however his Norwich contract was cancelled in February 2020 and he ended the season back in the Spartan South Midlands League with Stotfold.
Eighteen months in the pro-game clearly had whetted Coley’s appetite however and, upon signing for Maidenhead it was soon clear that Maidenhead had unearthed a rough diamond. The Magpies first win of the season was secured at Wrexham thanks to Coley’s deft header a contribution that earned him the Man of the Match award in the live televised BT Sport match. Coley impressed throughout his year at York Road, with his direct, quick-running and his willingness to get the ball down and take on opponents and he joins Harry Pritchard, Sam Barratt and Max Kilman as recent graduates from Devonshire’s part-time academy to life as a fully-fledged pro.
It will be fascinating to see whether he can be the latest young prospect from Non-League to work his way up the EFL ladder and beyond.