There are a number of former Premier League players who have dropped down to the Non-League level of football to either play out their final years as a footballer, or to kick start their managerial careers. But how did they get on this season?
Clinton Morrison – Mickleover Sports
Between 1997 and 2010, Morrison scored 151 goals in 513 appearances for Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Coventry City in the Premier League and First Division/Championship. He also won 36 caps for the Republic of Ireland, scoring nine goals across his international career.
The 38 year old joined Evo-Stik NPL Mickleover Sports in September 2016 after originally signing for Southern Premier Division side Redditch United, scoring once in three games. Over the course of the 16/17 season, Morrison appeared 28 times for Mickleover, watch one of his three goals below.
A disappointing return for the Irishman, however, there is no doubt that his experience helped Sports keep clear of relegation as they ended the season 14 points clear of the drop zone.
Jonathan Greening – Tadcaster Albion
During his career, Greening has churned out an impressive 470 appearances in the Premier League and Championship. Once under the ranks of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Greening also played for Middlesborough, West Brom, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Barnsley.
His first spell at Tadcaster came during the 14/15 season, scoring five goals in 21 appearances. Fast forward to the 16/17 season where the midfielder played 23 times for Albion, managing to score five times, not a bad record from centre midfield. The former Premier League winner helped Albion to finish 19th in the Evo-Stik First Division North, a disappointing season in the end but avoiding the drop was important for the Englishman and his teammates.
Julio Arca – South Shields
Born in Argentina, Arca made his move to England in 2000 to join Sunderland for £3.5 million. During his time with the Black Cats, he made 177 appearances in the Premier League and Championship before moving to Middleborough in the 06/07 season. He added a further 157 matches played to his name both in the Premier League and Championship, scoring a total of 32 goals for the North East sides.
This season, Arca helped South Shields to the Northern League Division One title after they managed to accumulate 108 points, a super impressive tally. It was a great season for Shields and Arca, his 49 games and 11 goals from midfield helped them do the double as they beat Cleethorpes Town 4-0 in the FA Vase final at Wembley, with the 36 year old scoring in the semi-final.
VIDEO: Julio Arca gives his reaction to the Mariners’ triumph in the FA Vase final at Wembley https://t.co/OuJWazuFF9
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) May 24, 2017
Overall, a great season for the Argentine veteran, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying his time in Non-League football.
Paul Konchesky & Jamie O’Hara – Billericay Town
The former England left-back has racked up 559 league and cup appearances for Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, Fulham, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League and Championship.
During the 16/17 campaign, the 36 year old made 12 appearances for Town as they had a solid year, finishing eighth in the Ryman League Premier Division.
Jamie O’Hara also played a helping hand in Town’s solid season. The Englishman has a total of 187 appearances under his belt in the Premier League, Championship and Uefa Cup. The 30 year old joined the Essex outfit in March and led the team to an 8-3 Ryman League Cup final victory, whilst his other outstanding moment came in a 4-2 home loss to Enfield Town when he scored this bicycle kick.
O’Hara was at the centre of controversy though when he was fined two weeks wages for pushing an away fan after a game where both he and Konchesky reportedly received ‘unprecedented abuse’. A disappointing point in what seemed to be a promising opening few games for the former Premier League players who will want to guide Town to promotion next season.
Jimmy Bullard – Leatherhead (Manager)
The former West Ham, Peterborough, Wigan, Fulham, Hull City, Ipswich and MK Dons midfielder landed his first managerial job with Ryman Premier Division outfit Leatherhead in September 2016.
Bullard, who has 90 appearances and 15 Premier League goals to his name, impressed during his first season. His record for Leatherhead stands at 19 wins, 17 defeats, 11 draws and a win percentage of 40.43%, not a bad return in your first season as manager. He guided The Tanners to 13th, but it was announced that he would leave Fetcham Grove to pursue a full-time role in football elsewhere.
— Stephen Leighton (@StephenStiffla) May 2, 2017
The ever popular ‘bulldog’ was clearly a hit with some football fans.
Possibly his most famous moment as Leatherhead manager came after his side claimed all three points against the likes of O’Hara and Konchesky, as they celebrated in the dressing room by sining R Kelly’s “The Worlds Greatest”…
Jimmy Bullard’s Leatherhead singing “The World’s Greatest” after beating Billericay. Classic Bullard. ???? pic.twitter.com/iiSIVVp7K6
— Grass Root Goals (@GrassRootGoals_) April 16, 2017
Steve Claridge – Salisbury City (Manager)
A former Premier League player and League Cup winner with Leicester City, the 51 year old is vastly experienced and has proved this with his excellent managerial record with Salisbury City.
The Whites and Claridge gained promotion to the Southern League Division One South & West after being crowned champions of the Wessex League Premier Division title in 2016. This season started fairly poorly for Salisbury, however, they managed to bounce back to finish second in their first season in the league. Unfortunately, their season ended with disappointment as they fell to a 2-0 defeat in the play-off final against third-placed Tiverton Town which denied them back to back promotions.
The future looks bright for the club and with Claridge seemingly happy and clearly doing a great job, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be pushing for promotion again next season.
Darren Carter – Forest Green Rovers
Carter earned 52 Premier League appearances for Birmingham City and West Brom between 2002 and 2007, scoring a total of five goals. Since then, the midfielder has played for Preston North End, Millwall, Cheltenham Town and Northampton Town in the Championship and League Two.
He joined Rovers at the start of the 15/16 season and has appeared 62 times for the club, scoring 13 goals in all competitions. His season seemed to be going well, playing regularly in a title-chasing side and helping them reach the play off semi-finals. The season ended in disappointing circumstances for the midfielder, as he and the club parted ways just before their opening leg of the play off’s, leaving the 33 year old currently without a club for the new season and unable to join in the celebrations of Forest Green’s first ever promotion to the football league.