When a Premier League player approaches the end of his career he generally has two choices.
Does he run his contract down and potentially warm the bench every week or does he take a pay cut and drop down a league or two in order to prolong his career?
The majority of players do choose to finish their football career at the top but there have been many examples of players over the years opting to see out their playing days by dropping down the leagues and turning out for a smaller team.
In our latest post we pick a starting 11 of some of the biggest names to play for some of the smallest teams.
GK – David James – Bournemouth
England’s former number one keeper, David James joined then League One side Bournemouth in September 2012 making 19 league appearances for the Cherries before leaving by mutual consent in March 2013.
42 years-old at the time, James carried on playing in Iceland and India before finally hanging up his gloves in 2014.
LB – Ian Harte – Carlisle United
Ian Harte had one of the sweetest left foots ever seen in the Premier League and was a major coup for League One side Carlisle United considering Harte was only 32 at the time.
Harte was looking to revitalise his faltering career after disastrous spells at Sunderland and Blackpool and was extremely successful at Carlisle scoring 18 times from defence in his first full season.
Harte’s gamble and return to form paid off and he was eventually signed by Championship side Reading with whom he won promotion to the Premier League in 2012.
CB – Matthew Upson – MK Dons
Former England centre back Upson joined Championship newcomers MK Dons in 2015 to add a bit of experience to their fledgling team.
Signed on a one-year contract, Upson played seven times before retiring at the end of the season.
RB – Pascal Chimbonda – Carlisle United
Voted as the best right back in the Premier League in 2005-06, Chimbonda joined his former Wigan team-mate Graham Kavanagh at League One Carlisle United on a one year contract in 2013.
He was unable to help the team avoid relegation and he left at the end of the season to see out his playing career in France.
CM – Edgar Davids – Barnet
Dutch legend Davids was unveiled as League Two Barnet’s new player manager in 2012 and struggled to get to grips with the challenge of football at that level.
Discipline was a huge problem for Davids and he was booked in each of his first eight games and was he was also sent off three times.
Davids played 36 times in total for Barnet before resigning in 2014 and retiring for good.
CM – Paul Gascoigne – Boston United
Arguably the greatest England player of his generation, Gazza signed for Boston United in a player-coach capacity in 2004.
Clean and sober during his time with the club, Gazza left after playing just five games to seek a player-manager role elsewhere.
AM – Paul Merson – Walsall
Another ex England midfielder with addiction problems, Merson joined Walsall in 2003 as a player but ended up in a player-manager role at the start of the 2004-05 season.
Although Merson endured addiction problems off the field his performances on the pitch led to League One safety that season.
Unfortunately after a terrible start the following season, Merson was sacked in February 2006 and he retired a month later.
RW – Darren Anderton – Bournemouth
Initially signed for League One side Bournemouth on a pay as you play basis in 2006, Anderton’s performances were so good he was given the captain’s armband and his contract was increased.
Anderton stayed at the club until December 2008 before retiring for good.
He had a fairytale finish in his last ever game when he scored a fantastic long-range volley in the 88th minute after coming on as a substitute.
LW – Lee Sharpe – Exeter City
Former Manchester United and England winger had been gradually slipping down the league ladder before ending up at Exeter City in the old Third Division.
Sharpe played just four games, scoring once for the club before moving to a club in Iceland and retiring shortly afterwards.
ST – Teddy Sheringham – Colchester United
Joining Colchester United from West Ham in 2007 at the age of 41, Sheringham played 20 times and scored four goals for the club before retiring at the end of the season.
At the time, Sheringham was the oldest outfield player in all four divisions of the football league and passed 700 career appearances during his time at the club.
Sheringham’s career highlight was undoubtedly winning the 1999 Champions League Final with Manchester United who are a great bet at 14-1 to win this year according to the bookies.
ST – Julian Joachim – Boston United / Darlington
After an unsuccessful spell at Leeds United, Joachim joined his hometown club Boston United in 2005 at the age of just 30.
Joachim was a huge success at the club scoring 17 goals in 46 appearances in his time at Boston and he was snapped up by League Two side Darlington for a club record £100,000.
Despite helping Darlington to the play offs, Joachim was released at the end of the 2007-8 season and moved into non-league football before retiring completely in 2016.
For information on what your favourite ex Premier League footballers are doing in retirement check out our where are they now website.