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FORMER Southend United midfielder Mark Bentley believes non-league now has more talented players than ever before.

Bentley - who is currently the manager of Canvey Island - made the step up from non-league himself when he joined Blues from Dagenham & Redbridge back in 2004.

And the 40-year-old is certain there are many players capable of following in his footsteps by impressing in the Football League.

“I think there are more players than ever before in non-league who can make the step up,” said Bentley.

“I got to make the step up in the end when I went to Southend and obviously Freddy Eastwood and Mark Gower were signed from non-league too.

“They did brilliantly and we had success as a team too but further afield you look at the likes of Jamie Vardy and see how well he’s done.

“There are the players out there and I see them even at the level I’m managing at now.

“You see players with real potential and they just need that little bit of luck. But it ultimately comes down to hard work and getting a reputation so that clubs want to sign you.”

Bentley was Steve Tilson’s first signing for the Shrimpers and he played a huge part in securing back-to-back promotions. But he is now firmly focused on bringing the good times back to Canvey.

“I want to get Canvey back to where they were 15 years ago when I used to play against them,” said Bentley.

“For me, they’re a big non-league side and I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t believe we could get back up the leagues.”

>The full interview with Mark Bentley is available in this week’s ‘Have I Got Blues For You’ podcast, available on iTunes.