From the EPL to Non-League: A Look at the Game’s former Stars
January 02, 2018
Given the amount of money that players now earn in the EPL, the notion of former top-flight stars ending their careers with non-league sides seems strange.
Not every footballer is motivated by money, however, with some deciding to extend their playing careers in more modest surroundings due simply to a love of the game.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the former EPL stars who are currently lining up for non-league sides, while taking a look back at their top-flight careers.
With exceptional pace and raw strength, striker Ricardo Fuller enjoyed some considerable heights as a Premier League player.
In total, he spent five seasons in the top-flight, scoring a cumulative total of 19 goals for Portsmouth and Stoke during this time. He was also a key member of the Stoke squad that became an established EPL force under the shrewd stewardship of Tony Pulis, and he led the Potters’ line with distinction until he left the Britannia in 2012.
Since then, Fuller has plied his trade with a number of lower league clubs, including Charlton, Blackpool and Millwall, while he signed his final professional contract with Oldham Athletic at the beginning of the 2015/16 season.
Though he announced his retirement at the end of that campaign, he’s returned to the grass roots of the English games and turned out for Sunday League outfit Grange Park Rangers. Interestingly, former Stoke teammate Mamady Sidibe also features in the Rangers squad, while Fuller had the distinction of scoring a penalty on his debut.
There aren’t many non-league players that have a Champions League winners medal in their collection, but Jonathan Greening is one who can make this boast. The midfielder earned this distinction as part of Manchester United’s treble winning squad in 1998/99, although the Old Trafford academy graduate earned only minimal game time during this season.
After leaving Old Trafford 2001, Greening enjoyed more sustained top-flight success at Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion, making a combined total of 295 EPL appearances for these clubs before becoming the club captain at The Hawthorns.
After being loaned to Fulham for a brief stint in 2009/10, he dropped into the Championship with Nottingham Forest, where he remained for three years before finally departing in 2014. It was then that he joined Tadcaster Albion in the Northern Counties East League, where he has become something a cult hero for fans of the Yorkshire club.
Although Greening fleeting appeared in League Two with York City, he returned to Tadcaster in 2015 and played an integral role in the club’s promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One North.
When Arsenal signed Jermaine Pennant from Notts County as a precocious 15-year old, he was considered to be one of the brightest prospects in the game. While he never quite achieved the heights that some predicted for him, however, he has starred for top-flight clubs such as Liverpool, played in a Champions League final and plied his trade across two different continents.
The highlight of Pennant’s career came in 2007, when he was selected by Rafa Benitez to start in the Champions League final against AC Milan. The winger played for the entire 90 minutes, and although the Reds lost 2-1 in a tense encounter he at least delivered the corner from which Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt scored Liverpool’s consolation goal.
Since then, the talented but inconsistent Pennant has become something of a globetrotter, playing for 15 clubs in total while representing an eclectic range of sides including Real Zaragoza, Pune City, Wigan Athetic, Tampine Rovers and, most recently, Billericay Town.
His arrival at non-league Billericay has certainly raised some eyebrows, although we should not be surprised given how Pennant’s career has panned out. He signed a two-year deal with the club back in the summer, and his incredible wealth of experience should prove invaluable for the Isthmian League Premier Division outfit.
Interestingly, Pennant now stars alongside with the former Liverpool, Fulham and England full-back Paul Konchesky in the Essex club’s starting line-up. These two seasoned former pros have helped the club to top the Isthmian League Premier Division table, with promotion looking a sure-fire bet with half of the season gone.
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