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

The Football League is often where former Premier League players go to do their last dance before retiring.

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

Phil Jagelka
It’s now 15 years since the left-wing centre-back from boyhood club Sheffield United joined Everton (yes, we’re all getting older).

Signed for just £4million, Jagielka proved to be a big hit at Goodison Park, playing over 300 times in the Premier League. At one point he channeled his inner Alex (forgettable ex-Chelsea player) to score a World Cup against Liverpool.

He was also capped 40 times for England between 2008 and 2016. It was a particularly poor time for the national team, with its managers ranging from Fabio Capello to Sam Allardyce. That was the time.

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

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

Despite their issues, Derby performed well in actual games and Jagielka was instrumental in their success. But he left in January when his deal expired as their transfer embargo prohibited further negotiations.

Their Championship rivals Stoke City saw this as an opportunity to sign him, and he played 20 times for them before the end of the 2021/22 season. The 39-year-old signed a new short-term contract over the summer to continue in the Football League until his 40s. Fair play.

Cameron Jerome
How the hell is this guy still here?

You may be surprised to learn that he is also a 35-year-old. He had spells in the Premier League with Birmingham City, Stoke City and yo-yo dealers Norwich City.

Like Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic, he has never been as good in the elite as in the Championship.

Jerome’s career in English football seemed to be over in 2018 as he joined Turkish Super Lig side Göztepe. But following his release two years later, his ex-Norwich team-mate – Russell Martin – signed him for MK Dons.

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He even enjoyed a bit of a late-career renaissance, scoring 13 times for MK Dons in Ligue 1 during the 2020/21 campaign.

This form earned him a return to the Championship as Luton Town fell in love. He racked up 31 league appearances last season and is now entering his second season with the Hatters.

John Ruddy
Now on to another former England international. His fate at Everton earlier in his career may have passed some, 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 in his first top-flight campaign earned him his lone cap in England during Roy Hodgson’s calamitous tenure.

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

The future champions had an unfair squad that season, with Diogo Jota, Willy Boly, Matt Doherty and Conor Coady among their best performers.

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

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

Michel Mance
There’s 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 for good last year at the age of 27 after making no senior appearances.

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No doubt to his relief, Mancienne didn’t have to wait as long as Blackman for his final release. The centre-back played six times for Chelsea and was in the Premier League with Wolves on loan before finding a home in Germany in Hamburg.

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

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

It was announced a few months after Chelsea legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink returned for a second term as manager.

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

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

James Perch
The latest is the versatile former Newcastle United defender. He joined the Magpies in the summer after winning the Championship in 2009/10.

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

Perch featured regularly under the former West Ham boss, whose infamous eight-year contract at Newcastle finally came to an end in 2020.

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

A move to QPR followed and he has spent the last two seasons in Ligue 1 and now Ligue 2 with Scunthorpe United and Mansfield Town.

His experience and reliability in the Football League has kept him playing longer than most. The soldier even returned early for Mansfield last season after suffering a fractured skull.

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

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