Premier League to non-league – 10 footballers who dropped down the divisions

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Some of football's most impressive stories are of players who have scrapped and fought their way up from non-league football to the very top of the game.

Most famously Leicester City's Jamie Vardy and West Ham's Michail Antonio made exactly that jump, earning their way to international recognition in the process.

However, there are some who have gone the other way, dropping down the football pyramid to play non-league football.

Whether they burst onto the scene as a young prodigy before losing their way, or just slowly fell down the divisions, many players have graced the Premier League only to later tumble out of the Football League.

These are 10 former Premier League footballers who decided to end their careers playing non-league football.

Titus Bramble

Titus Bramble became somewhat infamous for his gaffes in the Premier League at times but managed a long career at the top of the game.

He played for 15 years at Premier League clubs including Ipswich, Newcastle, Wigan and Sunderland before calling it a day in 2013.

However, he returned to the game in August 2017, agreeing a player-coach deal with Stowmarket Town of the Eastern Counties League Premier Division – the ninth tier of the English game.

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Clinton Morrison

Clinton Morrison spent three years in the Premier League with Birmingham City but is more synonymous with boyhood club Crystal Palace.

Former Republic of Ireland striker Morrison also played for Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, MK Dons, Brentford, Colchester and Exeter after leaving Selhurst Park for the second time in 2008.

He then turned out for Long Eaton United in the Midland League Premier Division and Mickleover Sports in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

Jamie O'Hara

Jamie O’Hara was among a group of footballers who made their way from the Premier League to non-league Billericay Town.

When he arrived, the team were in the seventh tier of English football but being funded by eccentric millionaire Glenn Tamplin, who was the owner and for a while, even manager of the team.

O'Hara started out at Tottenham and also played in the top flight for Portsmouth and Wolves, then dropped down the divisions with Blackpool, Fulham and Gillingham.

The former England Under-21 international spent six months out of the game, during which time he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, before penning a deal with Billericay in March 2017 alongside a couple of others still to feature on this list…

He played 47 times for the club scoring four goals before retiring from the non-league game in 2020.

Paul Konchesky

Paul Konchesky enjoyed spells in the Premier League with Charlton, West Ham, Fulham, Liverpool and Leicester in 2014/15, before joining Gillingham in 2016.

The left-back, who represented England twice between 2003 and 2005, dropped into the non-league to join Jamie O'Hara at Billericay Town in 2017, making 23 appearances.

He then moved to East Thurrock in 2018 before ending his playing career at Billericay Town in 2020 where he made three more appearances.

Paul Merson

Paul Merson graced the Premier League with Arsenal for 12 years.

He also had spells at Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Portsmouth in England’s top two divisions, before a three-year stint at third-tier Walsall.

Merson’s first experience of non-league came with Tamworth in 2006, but the two-time First Division champion departed after a handful of outings.

He came out of retirement six years later, briefly representing Whitton Athletic and Welshpool Town.

Jermaine Pennant

Jermaine Pennant made (yes) Billericay Town his 15th club in the summer of 2017, adding another chapter to a story which has featured time in Spain, India and Singapore.

The winger, once of Arsenal and Stoke, also represented Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League Final, when Milan ran out 2-1 winners in Athens. He ended his playing days at Billericay Town making just 13 appearances and scoring once.

Julio Arca

Julio Arca first moved to the northeast of England in 2000, when Peter Reid paid £3.5m for the Argentine’s services.

He spent six years with the Black Cats before moving a few miles down the road to Middlesbrough.

He made almost 200 appearances for them between 2006 and 2013.

Such was his love for the region, Arca spent the 2014/15 season with Sunday League side Willow Pond, before joining South Shields in September 2015. He retired in 2018.

George Elokobi

The popular former Wolves defender went a different route than many of the other players on this list.

The former Cameroon defender has had a uniquely circular career as he started with non-league side Dulwich Hamlet, before surging through the divisions until he went on to make 59 Premier League appearances for Wolves.

However, his career looped back around as he went on to play for Oldham Athletic, Colchester United, Braintree Town, Leyton Orient, and Aldershot, before hooking up with Maidstone United, where he made 55 appearances.

He ended his playing career this year at the age of 36.

Leroy Lita

The versatile forward made 65 Premier League appearances for Reading and Swansea City.

He scored ten top-flight goals but experienced relegation from the top flight with both sides.

His career is a classic journeymen tale, with spells in the Championship with Charlton, Norwich, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Notts County.

But after playing with Greek side AO Chania and Thai outfit Sisaket FC, the 36-year-old moved to Nuneaton FC in the Non-League Premier division.

He then moved to Stratford Town before moving to Hednesford Town this year where he scored six goals.

Mike Williamson

Mike Williamson made an impressive 134 Premier League appearances for Newcastle United between 2009 and 2016.

Magpies supporters may remember him grabbing two assists in their 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa in the 2010-11 season.

Staying local, he moved to Gateshead in 2018 making 62 appearances for them and scoring two goals. He is now their manager.

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