In an era of top-notch academies and huge international scouting networks, many players still rise from semi-pro football leagues to the top of domestic game. In a time when the financial gap between the Premier League and the rest is ever-widening, making it from non-league to the top flight seems impossible. It goes against everything the academy system has been set up to achieve. Yet it still happens, and with surprising regularity. The likes of Jamie Vardy, Chris Smalling, Troy Deeney, Joe Hart, Charlie Austin and few others have travelled on this path.
Cohen Bramall’s journey from non-league football to Arsenal has been quite fascinating. Bramall was born in Crewe, Cheshire on 2nd April 1996. Like several other kids, Bramall fell in love with the beautiful game at a very early age and dreamt about becoming a professional footballer. He began his career in non-League football at the age of 15, in his local area, with Kidsgrove Athletic in the 2013-14 season. The coaches at the club saw promise in the youngster, who is blessed with some serious pace.
After his initial years with Kidsgrove Athletic, Bramall played for several semi-professional clubs playing in the National league system. He moved to Alsager Town in the North West Counties League Division One South in 2014 before moving on to Nantwich Town, Market Drayton Town and Newcastle Town respectively. During this time Bramall found his feet as a left back, his natural speed and athleticism helped him flourish in that potion.
In 2015-16, the youngster moved to Market Drayton Town for a second spell and was one of the most important member of the side that won the 2015–16 Shropshire Premier Cup. His performance caught the eye of several clubs. In May 2016, upon receiving an offer from Hednesford Town he moved to Northern Premier League Premier Division club. He played on a part-time basis while working at a Bentley car factory for long hours. However, at the end of the season Bramall was made redundant by the club.
After his stint with Hednesford Town, Bramall’s former coach Lee Mcdonald told him that he is the best left back in national league and he has the potential to become a professional footballer. This injected a lot of confidence in the youngster who then spent six weeks in trails with League two Crewe Alexandra and Premier League club Stoke City. According to Bramall, these trails taught him a lot and helped him to improve his game.
Then came the week which completely changed the life of the young left back. He was first offered a trial with Championship club Sheffield Wednesday, appearing with their under-23 side in a match against Birmingham City. The next day, he received a call, which stated that he will be in trails on Thursday and Friday with Arsenal’s first team. During the short trial, Bramall impressed Arsene Wenger and signed professional forms with Premier League club Arsenal on 9 January 2017. Crystal Palace of the Premier League were also interested in signing him.
He spent the remainder of the season playing for the club’s under-23 side. During Arsenal’s pre-season before the 2017–18 season, Bramall joined the first-team squad for the club’s tour of Australia and China, making his senior debut in a friendly against A-League side Sydney.
On 21 August 2017, Bramall was loaned out to Championship club Birmingham City until the end of the season. Bramall made his senior professional debut the next day in a EFL Cup match against Bournemouth. He played 78 minutes in a 2–1 defeat. He made his first Football League appearance in Birmingham’s next match, playing the whole of a 2–0 defeat at home to Reading.
Despite speculation that the loan might be cut short in the January transfer window, he remained at the club, and played 4 more matches in Championship. Bramall is currently playing for Arsenal’s under-23 side in Premier League 2. He has appeared in 7 matches this season so far.
Cohen Bramall is undoubtedly a very talented footballer, who has come a long way to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional footballer and now, he is developing in the guidance of world-class coaches and playing with some of the best footballers in Europe. Only time can tell us, whether the 23-year-old can establish himself in the first team or not.