My view from up North: Don't write off non-league signing yet

The News have this week welcomed Fratton Park season-ticket-holder and work-placement student Dan Statham onto the sports desk.

Thursday, 24th May 2018, 8:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:48 am
New non-league signing Louie Dennis. Picture: Neil Weld.

Our temporary new arrival sits in the North Stand and is not short of an opinion or two with regards his hometown club.

Today he looks at the debate around non-league signing Louie Dennis among fans after he joined from Bromley on Wednesday. Here's what he had to say...

After Kenny Jackett was hired last summer, the Pompey boss explained his interest in looking below the Football League's basement tier for talent.

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Paul Cook did exactly this, when he plundered Hampton & Richmond for their top two talents Jamal Lowe and Nicke Kabamba, during the 2016-2017 season.

The policy of dipping out of the Football League to discover gems has been widely debated online.

Many Pompey fans have stated they would rather be in the market for proven League One talents - something I agreed with.

The Blues have dipped into non-league on a few occasions in recent seasons - but not all of them have turned heads like Lowe.

Pompey signed both Ryan Bird and Kabamba from outside of the pro ranks.

Both forwards played part-time before signing with the Blues. Bird was a part-time electrician, whilst Kabamba was a car salesman.

And both men arrived following impressive seasons at Burnham Town and Hampton and Richmond respectively.

Ultimately, neither forward got a chance to impress. Bird scored three goals in 20 appearances for the Blues and was shipped off to the Hawks and Cambridge on loan.

Meanwhile, Kabamba was sent to Colchester and Aldershot in his first full season.

Bird has spent time at Cambridge, Eastleigh and Dover among other clubs since his release in 2014.

Kabamba is now currently without a club after it was announced the forward's contract would not be renewed earlier this month.

Two signings which have made a considerably larger impact are Oli Hawkins and Lowe.

Hawkins, signed from Dagenham on deadline day in the summer transfer window earlier this season for an undisclosed fee.

And Lowe signed in winter 2016, after impressing then manager Cook while at Hampton & Richmond.

Hawkins netted eight times in 42 appearances in his first season at Pompey.

The tall forward also featured a few times at centre-back during times of trouble.

Hawkins has been praised for his impact at both ends of the pitch and his seamless transition from playing both positions.

Despite not having a mesmerising goal-to-game ratio, Hawkins was joint second highest goalscorer alongside Lowe last season.

Lowe himself has been incredibly successful.

He has become a fans' favourite since his switch from non-league. The skilful winger netted a double to send Pompey back into the third tier, and has improved remarkably to become one of the division's most threatening players.

Lowe also notched eight times and towards the end of the season his performances became scintillating, picking up a host of assists as the Blues pushed for the play-offs.

His consistently displays have not gone unnoticed by the Fratton faithful, and Blues fans will be hoping Louis Dennis could have a similar impact.

Pompey's signings from non league have been a bit of a mixed bag in recent seasons which has possibly added to online scepticism.

But fans shouldn't write off any signing from non-league clubs immediately.

Looking further afield, the impact of Jamie Vardy, who moved from the non-league game before making his way up the Football League should inspire hope for Blues fans that gems do exist outside the top four tiers.

Lowe's rise should also be considered before some of the faithful write off Dennis before he has even donned a blue shirt.