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Non-League Day

Players who went from Premier League to non-league

25 Mar 2023
Manchester United v Watford - Premier League

Five former top-flight stars whose love of the game has seen them carry on playing outside of the top four divisions

Ahead of Non-League Day on Saturday 25 March, we are highlighting the links between the Premier League and non-league, beneath the top four divisions of the English football pyramid. Here we focus on five former Premier League players who have continued to play further down the pyramid. 

Ben Foster 

The signing of Foster by National League leaders Wrexham, marks the goalkeeper as the latest player who has starred in the Premier League to show his love for the game, by continuing his trade down below the top four tiers of the English football pyramid.

Foster made 390 appearances in the Premier League for Watford, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion and announced his retirement in the summer.

But the opportunity to return to the Welsh side, where he played on loan from Stoke City back in 2005, was too much for Foster to resist.

“The first time I was here, it was genuinely the springboard to the rest of my career,” Foster, 39, said. “On the back of the loan move, playing in the LDV Vans Trophy Final at the Millennium Stadium, I got my move to Manchester United at the start of the next season. It was absolutely bonkers!

“If you’d told me 18 years ago that I’d have gone on to have the career that I have had, I probably wouldn’t have believed you to be honest, so I do owe a lot to Wrexham.”

When Foster was at Wrexham, they were still a Football League club, but before then, he had started out at non-league club Racing Club Warwick, before spells at Tiverton Town and Stafford Rangers, who also played below what is now known as the EFL.

Mike Williamson
Mike Williamson, Newcastle
After six years at Newcastle Mike Williamson is now managing at nearby Gateshead

The defender spent six years at Newcastle United, making 134 Premier League appearances after signing in 2010. Williamson, now 39, is based on the south side of the Tyne River at nearby Gateshead as player-manager.

Williamson guided the team into the National League as 2021/22 Vanarama National League North champions, in only his third season in charge.

Leroy Lita
Leroy Lita, Reading
Leroy Lita celebrates after scoring one of his 10 Premier League goals for Reading

The former Reading and Swansea City striker scored 10 goals and produced five assists in 65 Premier League appearances between 2006 and 2014. And after playing for a number of clubs at tier six of the football pyramid, he is still banging them in.

Now aged 38, Lita recently moved to Ilkeston Town, leaving Southern League Premier Division Central rivals Hednesford Town after netting 16 goals in 20 matches. He has continued that form, scoring 12 goals in 11 matches.

"I love football and am able to still play at a good level so I want to do that as much as I can before I finish,” Lita told the Derbyshire Times. "I look after myself and as long as I can make an impact on the team I’ll always put myself out there.

"If I make myself look silly then maybe it’ll be time to move on, but right now I feel like I’ve got plenty in the tank.”

Barry Hayles
Barry Hayles, Fulham
Barry Hayles made 75 Premier League appearances for Fulham between 2001 and 2004

After helping Leicester City get promoted to the Premier League, the striker signed for Fulham, where he made 75 appearances, scoring 13 goals between 2001 and 2004.

Hayles is leading the line at Chesham United in the South League Premier Division South, the ninth tier of the English game aged 50.

John Bostock
John Bostock, Spurs
John Bostock signed for Spurs but never played a league match for them

Signed from Crystal Palace by Tottenham Hotspur in May 2008 as a talented teenager, Bostock never managed to make a Premier League appearance for Spurs.

The midfielder went on loan to a number of clubs in England, before plying his trade in Belgium, France and Turkey.

Now aged 31, Bostock is helping Notts County chase Wrexham for the only automatic promotion place from the National League to League Two.

See: More Non-League Day stories

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