Ronald Sobowale: The non-league star turning Premier League heads
Background image: Sherms95, CC BY-SA 4.0
Premier League scouts representing clubs such as Burnley and Sheffield United have been tasting non-league football recently; and not just for a day out. Whyteleafe FC’s 22-year-old striker Sobowale has been in prolific form this season, netting 23 goals in 25 games for his side, catching the eye of some top talent-spotters.
The Londoner with Nigerian heritage has previously trialled with several Championship clubs such as Barnsley and Cardiff City, after impressing in the AG Football Academy’s #BENEXT showcase matches. Sobowale scored for Cardiff in a friendly against MLS outfit Vancouver Whitecaps back in 2017, and has been trialling with Middlesbrough since October while earning regular football at Whyteleafe.
Sobowale has the pedigree to succeed, being the cousin of Bayern Munich star David Alaba. Alaba’s father is the brother of the young striker’s father, and while the full-back was a regular in Germany by his cousin’s age, Sobowale is taking a rather different route to the top. He was on Chelsea’s books as a teenager but was eventually overlooked while playing in the same team as Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke. The forward went over to Germany after his release from the Cobham academy but ended up moving back to London. He has been excelling in non-league ever since.
However, his trials with league clubs have so far all been unsuccessful. Making the immediate step up from non-league to the Championship is enormous, and Sobowale would be leapfrogging six leagues if he were to be prosperous. It has been done before by younger players, for example Ademola Lookman who was spotted playing youth football for Waterloo before signing for Charlton Athletic as a teenager, but Sobowale would have to be ready to push for a first-team spot as a 22-year-old.
England international and Premier League record-setter Jamie Vardy was playing in the Northern Premier League in 2010/11 and was still in the Conference with Fleetwood Town before signing for Leicester City in 2012. However, the climb cannot be underestimated. Vardy is one of a kind and hundreds of strikers fall in the race to replicate him every season...
Sobowale’s goalscoring record is brilliant at BetVictor Isthimian South East Division level - but replicating that in the Championship or even Premier League would be incredibly difficult. His pace and trickery up front are particular weapons, though, and helped him to catch the eye of multiple scouts at #BENEXT. After being turned down by several clubs he was told to improve his physicality, so has evidently spent some time in the gym. Sobowale has improved his presence up front, and now has the strength and power to go with his pace.
Plying his trade at Whyteleafe for now, Sobowale might be better off playing the long game and focusing on climbing the non-league pyramid for now, or even working with a League One or League Two side. It is clear to see for a scout at any level that he has the raw ability. Although he’ll find it difficult to reach the levels of his cousin, the striker is clearly playing above his means at the moment. Why not continue with the trials until a league club takes him on? Shoot for the Munich moon, and you’ll land among the Sheffield stars...
Watch this space.