You’re still going? Five ex-Premier League stars in the Football League you thought had retired

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Ex-Premier League stars Credit: PA Images
Ex-Premier League stars Credit: PA Images

The Football League is often the place ex-Premier League players go to have their last dance before riding off into the retirement sunset. 

Here are some former top-flight players you may be shocked to hear are still kicking a ball around for a living in the EFL…


Phil Jagielka
It’s now 15 years since the centre-back left boyhood club Sheffield United to join Everton (yes, we’re all getting old).

Signed for just £4m, Jagielka proved to be a great success at Goodison Park, playing over 300 times in the Premier League. At one time he channelled his inner Alex (forgettable ex-Chelsea player) to score a worldie against Liverpool.

He was also capped 40 times for England between 2008 and 2016. This was a particularly poor era for the national team, with his managers ranging from Fabio Capello to Sam Allardyce. Those were the days.

Jagielka returned to Sheffield United in 2019 and he stayed with them during their two-year spell in the Premier League.

Following Chris Wilder’s departure and their subsequent relegation, the defender became a free agent before joining Derby County. He was managed by Wayne Rooney while the club were going through financial turmoil off the pitch.

Despite their troubles, Derby fared well in actual games and Jagielka contributed to their success. But he left in January when his deal expired as their transfer embargo forbade further negotiations.

Their Championship rivals Stoke City saw this as an opportunity to snap him up, and he played 20 times for them before the 2021/22 season ended. The 39-year-old penned a new short-term deal during the summer so he will continue in the Football League into his 40s. Fair play.


Cameron Jerome
How on earth is this fella still about?

You may be surprised to hear that he is a youthful 35, too. He had spells in the Premier League with Birmingham City, Stoke City and yo-yo merchants Norwich City.

A la Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic, he was never quite as good in the top flight as he was in the Championship.

Jerome’s career in English football looked like it may have been over in 2018 as he joined Turkish Super Lig side Göztepe. But following his release two years later, his ex-teammate at Norwich – Russell Martin – signed him for MK Dons.

He has even enjoyed a bit of a late-career renaissance, scoring 13 times for MK Dons in League One during the 2020/21 campaign.

This form earned him a move back to the Championship as Luton Town fell for his charms. He racked up 31 league appearances last term and he is now starting his second season with the Hatters.


John Ruddy
Now onto another ex-England international. His spell at Everton earlier in his career may have passed some by, but he is best known for his time at Norwich City.

He was in the Premier League with the Canaries for four seasons between 2011 and 2017. His form during his debut top-flight campaign led to him earning his solitary England cap during Roy Hodgson’s calamitous tenure.

After establishing himself in the Premier League, Wolves were wise to sign him on a free transfer before their 2017/18 Championship campaign.

The eventual champions had an unfair team that season, with Diogo Jota, Willy Boly, Matt Doherty and Conor Coady among their better performers.

Ruddy featured in all but one of their league games as Wolves finished on 99 points but he then only played five times in the Premier League in four seasons as he has played second fiddle to Rui Patricio and Jose Sa.

The 35-year-old is now back in the Championship as he has moved to Birmingham City. The goalkeeper is very familiar with a relegation battle and he is likely to be in another one this season.


Michael Mancienne
There is not much that tickles Chelsea more than keeping academy players on their books just to send them out on loan.

I mean, Christ, Jamal Blackman (remember him?) left Chelsea permanently last year aged 27 after not making a single senior appearance.

No doubt to his relief, Mancienne did not have to wait as long as Blackman for his permanent exit. The centre-back played six times for Chelsea and was in the Premier League with Wolves on loan before he found a home in Germany at Hamburg.

He returned to England in 2014 to join Nottingham Forest. He would play 124 times in the Championship before his already strange career took another bizarre turn when he signed for MLS side New England Revolution.

Mancienne could have been forgiven for seeing out his career in the United States, but at the start of 2021, League One’s Burton Albion signed him.

This was announced a couple of months after Chelsea legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink returned for a second spell as manager.

The ex-Chelsea man has had his fair share of out-there teammates at Burton. Former Man Utd youngster Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is there currently, while Everton flop Oumar Niasse had a brief spell at the club last season.

The main takeaway from this is that Hasselbaink must have played a lot of Football Manager.


James Perch
Last up is the versatile former Newcastle United defender. He joined the Magpies the summer after they p*ssed the Championship in 2009/10.

He was signed by Chris Hughton but he was soon replaced by Alan Pardew at the end of 2010.

Perch featured regularly under the ex-West Ham boss, whose infamous eight-year contract at Newcastle finally ended in 2020.

He played 65 times for Newcastle in the Premier League before Championship side Wigan Athletic bought him in 2013.

A spell at QPR followed and he has spent the last couple of seasons in League One and now League Two with Scunthorpe United and Mansfield Town.

His Football League experience and reliability has enabled him to continue playing longer than most. The trooper even returned early for Mansfield last term after suffering a fractured skull.

In what could be Perch’s last season before calling it a day, Mansfield will be aiming for promotion to League One. The F365 team (well, Steady) hope they do it anyway…

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