10 former pros we can’t believe are still playing in non-league in 2023-24
We cannot get enough of these 10 former professional footballers refusing to succumb to the passage of time and continuing their careers below the Football League in 2023-24.
While many professionals fall out of love with football after years in the profession – which is bonkers to us, but there are surely a number of reasons why it happens – others are hopeless addicts that need to get their fix wherever possible.
Here are 10 former pros who all share an undying love for the game and are rolling back the years in non-league football.
Former Liverpool winger Ibe has recently joined National League club Ebbsfleet. The 27-year-old has made 119 Premier League appearances and featured in the Europa League while at Anfield.
The former England Under-21s player spent four years at Liverpool, making 41 appearances, and had loan spells with Birmingham and Derby before a move to Bournemouth and a spell in Turkey.
“I just want to get back out there, show people what I can do again and play football,” he said.
Ibe has previously spoken about his battle with depression and stressed how important playing football is to him.
“I’ve worked hard to be in a position where I am able to focus on football and believe in myself and my ability to contribute on the pitch,” he told Ebbsfleet’s official website.
“Being back out there is where I love to be and where I’m most happy but I needed to be healthy and prepared to give myself that chance. The way Ebbsfleet have helped me and put a process in place so I can be ready has been really supportive.”
Former Reading striker Lita is still causing havoc to defences at the age of 38, leaving fans questioning what year it is after scoring on his debut for non-league Nuneaton Borough against Coventry City.
Lita was once a top name in the Premier League, turning out for clubs including Reading and Swansea after coming through the ranks at Chelsea.
He also played several seasons in the Championship for teams including Brighton, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday.
But, despite his 39th birthday being on the horizon, Lita is still playing in the English football league system. Good on him.
24' – Goal for Nuneaton: Leroy Lita.
🐻 1-0 🐘#PUSB
— Coventry City (@Coventry_City) August 1, 2023
Liverpool-born Jennings is still playing in Merseyside although, when he joined Bayern Munich, you might have imagined it’d be for one of the city’s Premier League sides.
Instead, the forward turns out for Northern Premier League staples Prescot Cables. He never made it in Germany and had unsuccessful spells at Barnsley and MK Dons.
Jennings is still just 30. We hope he’s enjoying himself.
Now 36, Maynard has enjoyed a long and varied career at clubs such as Crewe Alexandra, Bristol City, West Ham United, Cardiff City, Milton Keynes Dons, Aberdeen, Bury, Mansfield Town and Tranmere Rovers.
He’s now turning out for Winsford Town in Cheshire League Two and scored in their recent defeat against Clay Brow.
Some observers suggested Maynard would become the first ex-Premier League player to appear in the third tier of the Cheshire League – but was beaten to this record by ex-Southampton defender Fox, who achieved the feat only seven days before.
The 37-year-old, who has also played Champions League football for Celtic, was born in Winsford and currently plays for the same club as Maynard and scored in Town’s victory over Haydock FC.
Thirteen years ago, Smeltz opened the scoring for New Zealand against world champions Italy at South Africa 2010.
Now the striker is turning out for Guiseley, a team in the seventh tier of English football that’s based in a suburb of Leeds.
On his signing for the club in January 2023, Smeltz said: “I have recently come to Leeds with my family and settled here for family and work reasons. I let a few people know that I may want to play and I ended up talking with the Guiseley manager Paul Phillips.
“One thing led to another and I looked into it and the club appealed to me. Obviously, I am joining to play my part on the pitch and however the manager and the staff see fit.”
Although Smeltz was at one time looking to move into coaching that is not now the case.
“I have completed my A coaching licence but I don’t wish to be coaching in any capacity,” he explained. “I am simply happy to be another bit of experience that players and staff can bounce off.”
Considered one of England’s most promising strikers during his Aston Villa days, Delfouenso won the Golden Boot at the U19 European Championship in 2009 but was loaned out five times by his parent club.
He eventually settled at Blackpool, scoring 29 times in 146 appearances, before brief spells with Bolton and Bradford in the Football League.
Now 32, Delfouneso signed for AFC Fylde and helped them win promotion to the National League after joining the club in March 2023.
“I knew a few people who were here anyway, that’s players and staff,” he told the club’s YouTube channel.
“I thank them for being very welcoming to me, they have looked after me really well.”
Pugh was part of the Bournemouth squad that rose from League One to the Premier League under Eddie Howe and returned to the game last season after two years of retirement.
The midfielder has signed for Clitheroe Town, while also agreeing to donate his wages to charity.
“Delighted to be given the opportunity to help out my local town and club in their final push for the playoffs,” Pugh said after his signing was announced in March 2023.
“Clitheroe have kindly offered to make a generous donation to a local charity on my behalf in lieu of wages. I can’t wait to get started.”
A Football League stalwart, particularly with Swansea City, Trundle was renowned for scoring the type of goals normally only seen on the pages of a Roy of the Rovers comic.
Blessed with an excellent strike that made him a staple of Soccer AM during the show’s glory years, the striker came out of retirement in 2016 and scored goals for fun for Cymru South side Ammanford.
But he left Ammanford this summer, citing his desire for a ‘new challenge, and joined Ardal South West outfit Mumbles Rangers. He’ll be 47 in October.
The Soccer AM Showboat King
Lee Trundle 👑 pic.twitter.com/28CCf9fNdC
— My Greatest 11 (@MyGreatest11) March 22, 2023
Aguestien made 31 appearances for Swansea City in 2013 and was part of the squad that won the League Cup under Michael Laudrup.
He also appeared 131 times in the Eredivisie for the likes of AZ Alkmaar, Roda JC Kerkgrade, and Willem II Tilburg.
But after spells in the lower leagues of England and Holland, Augustien is now plying his trade for Northern Premier League Premier Division Matlock Town.
By Michael Lee