Josh Coley is the latest Maidenhead United EFL graduate
Another player left Berkshire Non-League football this week, heading to the EFL.
Josh Coley has only played a lone season for Maidenhead United. A strange season, a season that was played almost entirely behind closed doors. Even so, the growing profile of the National League is such that EFL clubs have noticed that the 22-year-old is impressing every week for Alan Devonshire’s side.
Coley’s progress – 5 goals in 27 starts and named to the bench by Devonshire 12 more times – caught the attention of League Two Exeter City who gave Coley the chance to resume his life as a professional footballer. Grecians Gaffer Matt Taylor remarked: “Josh is a good offensive player and someone we have observed regularly throughout last season. He got a taste of a professional environment in Norwich and Scotland, and that will set him up really well for the sequel. “
Taylor has clearly done his homework as he rightly escapes what, on paper, so far looks like a rather interrupted career for Coley. Born in Stevenage but moved north in his youth, he started in York before returning to the south with Arlesey Town in the Spartan South Midlands League, then crossing the border from Bedfordshire to join the Herts Senior County League with the Letchworths. Garden City Eagles.
A move to the Southern Leaguers Hitchin Town came to fruition in 2016, but he was on loan at Histon, Arlesey, Langford and Baldock Town where Coley really started to impress, combining part-time football with his masonry job.
A big break appeared to have happened for Coley in July 2018 when he signed for Norwich City to finally turn pro. A regular at the Canaries Under 23, he joined Scottish Championship side Dunfermline on loan the following year, scoring once in eleven appearances at Fife. Ultimately, however, his contract with Norwich was canceled in February 2020 and he ended the season in the Spartan South Midlands League with Stotfold.
However, eighteen months in the pro game had clearly whetted Coley’s appetite, and upon signing for Maidenhead, it was soon clear that Maidenhead had unearthed a rough diamond. The Magpies’ first win of the season came in Wrexham thanks to Coley’s skillful header, a contribution that earned him the Man of the Match award in the BT Sport live-televised game. Coley has impressed throughout his year at York Road, with his direct and fast run and willingness to drop the ball and face his opponents and he joins Harry Pritchard, Sam Barratt and Max Kilman as recent graduates of the part-time Devonshire academy to life as a full-fledged pro.
It will be fascinating to see if he can be the last young non-League prospect to rise through the EFL ranks and beyond.