The striker outscoring Vardy and Kane

Warren Bentley

Warren Bentley has scored 55 goals in all competitions this term

When he was a member of Southampton’s academy, Warren Bentley played alongside Gareth Bale.

And while he cannot match the superstar status the Wales and Real Madrid forward has attained, his striking talent at non-league level has brought him more goals than Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy combined this season.

The 25-year-old netted a hat-trick on Easter Monday to take his league tally to 41 for the season – unofficially crowning him the most prolific striker in the top eight tiers of English football.

And he has not given up hope that a professional club may decide to take a chance on him after being watched by scouts from a couple.

Bentley, who spent five years in the Saints academy rubbing shoulders with Bale, now plies his trade for Southern League Division One South and West outfit Winchester City and has scored more than 100 goals for them in less than two seasons.

“I had a quality time there, I played a few times with Gareth Bale and I trained with Adam Lallana and Theo Walcott,” Bentley told BBC Sport.

“Bale was not as good then as he is now and he certainly was not the standout player.

“As a player myself, I have never been blessed with great speed or strength, so it’s all down to technical ability and movement.

“When I was younger I looked up to [Dennis] Bergkamp and [Gianfranco] Zola.”


Bentley in action during Winchester City’s 3-0 win over Bashley on Easter Monday

Following his release from Southampton, Bentley went on to study at Bedfordshire University and now works full-time as a PE teacher.

He rejoined Winchester in 2014, and is hoping to eclipse his own personal scoring record of 51 league goals three seasons ago for Alresford Town.

Late-bloomer Vardy, who has spearheaded Leicester City’s Premier League title challenge, and current Southampton striker Charlie Austin, formerly of Poole FC, are obvious inspirations for Bentley.

“I have played against Charlie Austin quite a few times in the Wessex League, but it’s a one-in-a-million shot [to make it as a professional] and Vardy is the only one who has popped up relatively late,” he said.

“My ratio is improving slowly. I think every goalscorer in non-league knows exactly how many they are on after each game.

“I am quite happy playing non-league football, but like any boy’s dream, you want to play professionally.

“I am ambitious and if the opportunity came up this summer I would probably like to pursue it.”

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