Savage can't help himself...

7 former pros we can’t believe are managing in non-league in 2024

English football’s non-league system really is like nothing else in the world and throws up some seriously mental player and manager signings due to the tighter budgets and desperate desire to climb the pyramid.

But with how deep the pyramid is in the English game, that’s never quite as easy as some predict – even if you have all the money and connections in the world.

Non-league, a largely semi-professional game despite massive disparities between how much money clubs are operating on, has seen plenty of talented players drop down into its divisions over the years and managers too.

You’ll often find ex-professionals trying to break into management in non-league, to varying levels of success. We’ve taken a look at seven of those who are currently managing in non-league football right now.

Robbie Savage

Your favourite TNT Sports pundit has been a director of the board at phoenix club Macclesfield since they were formed off the back of Macclesfield Town’s collapse in 2020, and has also served as ‘director of football’ for the vast majority of that time.

Macclesfield have been through seven different managers since 2020 and after failing to achieve promotion from the NPL Premier Division in 2023-24, parted ways with Michael Clegg at the end of the season.

Their new manager? Director of football, Robbie Savage. No, seriously. We’d say strap in for the ride, but the consensus among Macclesfield fans is that the former Wales international has essentially been micro-managing all of the clubs coaches since 2020 anyway.

Brad Friedel, Robbie Savage.

READ: 6 former players you had no idea were now in director/advisor roles

Rob Elliot

A man we were convinced was on the books as Newcastle’s third-choice goalkeeper since humans first walked the earth, you’d be forgiven for not knowing he’d escaped that matrix and actually left the club at any point.

Since 2022, Elliot has been with National League outfit Gateshead as a technical director, while also being registered as a player. He took over as manager on caretaker basis in October 2023 following the departure of Mike Willamson and has led the club to their first ever FA Trophy and a sixth-place league finish.

The finish was high enough to make the play-offs for League Two, but they were banned from competing in them due to issues with the leasing of their stadium. We say let Elliot’s lads play.

Robbie Blake

Blake made over half a century of appearances across the Premier League and Football League combined and played for the likes of Bolton, Burnley, Leeds and Bradford during the height of his career, scoring the only goal in Burnley’s shock 1-0 win over Manchester United in August 2009.

He quietly retired in 2015 and joined the backroom staff at Portsmouth, but dropped down to non-league football in 2018 to take over as manager at Bognor Regis FC, who play in the Isthmian League Premier Division – a step below the National League North and South.

They managed a 10th-place finish last season and Blake seems rather settled.

Julian Dicks

Best known for his thunderbastard penalties which were struck with enough power that they could probably put human life on the moon, Dicks stepped into management in 2009 and has put together a pretty unique CV, which notably includes being manager of Sealand for a game in July 2013.

For those unaware, the Principality of Sealand is a platform in the North Sea sitting about 12km off the coast of Suffolk. It’s quite literally that, a platform and nothing more, but it’s still classed as a micronation, has been subject to invasion and sells noble titles, meaning you can become a Lord or a Baron of the place.

Sorry – we’re distracted. You can see why, though. How on earth did Dicks get roped into that? Anyway, he’s now back in the room and has just signed on for his third stint in charge of Isthmian League North Division side Heybridge Swifts. He just can’t get enough of them. We want another Sealand spell, personally.

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Ryan Shotton

An FA Cup finalist who also scored in the Europa League for Stoke in 2011-12, Shotton featured regularly under Tony Pulis and played hundreds of times in the Premier League and the Football League.

He enjoyed a brief spell in Australia with Melbourne Victory in 2021, but is now back in Staffordshire at 35 and is player-manager at NPL Division One side Hanley Town, while also co-owning a pub with his father-in-law.

George Elokobi

Someone who knows non-league football inside out after working his way up from there to eventually play in the Premier League with Wolves, Elokobi has scored a goal in every division from the Premier League down to the National League South.

Despite being only 38 and in the early years of his career as a manager, he’s amassed plenty of valuable experience and it’s paying off with National League side Maidstone United, whom he guided to the FA Cup fourth round for the first time in the club’s history last season.

It didn’t stop there, either. Maidstone managed a monumental upset of newly-promoted Premier League side Ipswich Town to reach round five, before eventually being knocked out by Coventry. Keep an eye on the Cameroonian, because he’s making things happen.

Phil Brown

Long before his half-time team talks on the pitch and excessive fake tanning, Brown was actually a rather handy player, punching in over 600 appearances outside of England’s top flight.

He was never a Premier League player, but he was as a manager with Hull City. He’s been around the houses somewhat since then, managing in India with Hyderabad for two years and recently taking a brief hiatus from the game, but he’s recently returned at non-league level with Kidderminster Harriers.

Brown couldn’t stop them from dropping out of the National League, but he’s just signed a new deal with the aim of getting them back there.