11 players you probably didn’t know were playing non-league football
Relatively few players feel the need to drop down the leagues as their career winds down these days, such are the riches on offer in the top two divisions, but it’s easy to forget that a lot of footballers are just as passionate about the game as we are as supporters.
And for that reason, there are still some huge names hanging around in the lower reaches of English football. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
Clinton Morrison – Mickleover Sports
A man who scored nine times in 36 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, Morrison has also netted over 100 goals for Crystal Palace in his career.
The 38-year-old played a handful of games for Long Eaton United in 2014 before joining Redditch United ahead of his move to Mickleover, where he is a payer-coach. He combines the work with his media role as part of Channel 5’s Football League coverage.
Barry Hayles – Windsor
Starting out at Willesden Hawkeye all the way back in 1989, Hayles is still going strong nearly 30 years later for Windsor FC.
The former Jamaica international made the biggest mark of his career at Fulham, grabbing 44 goals in 175 appearances between 1998 and 2004, but he has never quite hit the same heights since.
Since dropping into non-league since 2010, Hayles has had three spells with Truro City, as well as spending time with St Albans City, Arlesey Town and Chesham United.
Incredibly, at 45 years of age he still continues to play week-in, week-out.
Pascal Chimbonda – Washington
The most bizarre and out-of-the-blue signing of the season came when Northern League side Washington announced the arrival of former Tottenham and Wigan full-back Chimbonda in October.
A nomadic few years have seen the Frenchman surface at Market Drayton Town, move back into the Football League with Carlisle United, and return to France.
After two years without a club, Chimbonda joined North-Eastern based Washington out of nowhere.
Jamie O’Hara – Billericay Town
After failing to earn a deal at Gillingham last year, former Tottenham regular O’Hara decided to turn his hand to reality TV as he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother.
Then Billericay Town’s Glenn Tamplin came calling with deep pockets and made the Arsenal academy graduate a key part of his ambitious plans for the club.
The midfielder continues to be a controversial figure, most recently being accused of punching a young fan in the face as he left the field.
Steve Claridge – Salisbury
The true wanderer of football, Claridge’s list of clubs is way too long to list, but having seemingly finally hung up his boots in 2012, that all changed this year when he named himself in the line-up for Salisbury.
The club was formed after the demise of Salisbury City in 2015, and Claridge has been a director, manager and player for the club ever since.
He featured in a pre-season friendly against Portsmouth with three strikers away on holiday, and has since made an appearance in the league, at the tender age of 51.
Lloyd Doyley – Hemel Hempstead Town
Doyley spent 14 years at Watford before leaving in 2015, and he obviously struggled to adjust to life away from Vicarage Road as failed spells at Rotherham and Colchester have led him to Hemel Hempstead Town.
Lining up in the National League South, the 35-year-old joined Hemel in October but has played just twice so far.
Grant Holt – Barrow
At the age of 36, Holt’s career has come full circle as he finds himself back at Barrow, where he last played between 2001 and 2003.
Prolific spells at Rochdale, Nottingham Forest and Norwich City make up the most notable years of the big striker’s career, and while last season was spent helping Hibernian to the Scottish Championship title, it wasn’t enough to earn him a new deal.
A short spell at Kings Lynn Town at the start of the season kept him fit before he switched back to Barrow in the National League.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – AFC Telford United
Wolves’ former goalscoring machine Ebanks-Blake has been here, there and everywhere since leaving Molineux, lining up for Ipswich, Preston, Chesterfield and Shrewsbury before joining National League North side Telford last month.
The former Manchester United youngster hasn’t lost it, though, scoring twice during his first appearance, in an FA Trophy match against Droylsden.
Julian Joachim – Radcliffe Olympic
Another striker with a lengthy list of clubs ranging from Leeds to Kings Lynn and everywhere in between – including a stop at the incredibly intriguing Quorn FC.
Recent adventures include Shepshed Dynamo, Holwell Sports, Newark Town and his current club Radcliffe Olympic, where he is also part of the coaching staff.
Marcus Bent – Wick FC
Totalling transfer fees of over £10 million, the former Premier League striker now lines up for ninth-tier Wick.
A classic journeyman, Bent is on his 14th English club and most recently played for Mitra Kukar in Indonesia.
Jlloyd Samuel – Egerton
Amateur club Egerton boast an impressive coaching staff, with Samuel joined in the dugout and on the pitch by former Ajax, Feyenoord, Huddersfield Town and Barnsley man Dean Gorre.
The ex-Aston Villa and Bolton defender has attracted other names to the club including Nathan Ellington, who has played for Egerton, while Emile Heskey and Danny Webber have trained with the Cheshire-based outfit.