As players grow older, their effectiveness gradually starts to be reduced. Often established Premier League players move to the USA, Australia, and now China, in order to ‘wind down’ and make a bit more money before nobody will pay them to play anymore. It is a rarity to see top stars stay in England and play in the lower reaches of the Football League because wage bills are much larger abroad and there is little opportunity to globalise their brand. When they do take a trip down the league ladder, sometimes they flourish, but often they struggle. Here is a small insight into some of those former Premier League players currently plying their trade in League One.
Ebanks-Blake is remembered fondly by Wolves fans; it was his goal that secured promotion to the Premier League in 2009. Three seasons in the top division followed for the Englishman, who went on to score ten Premier League goals in 76 appearances.
As is so often the case, injuries have hit him hard. Still only 31, the target man spent the first half of this season on loan at Shrewsbury Town. Fitness was an issue—he featured just seven times, never scoring. He returned to Chesterfield in January and has since scored just once. Despite scoring ten goals in League One last season last season, he is certainly struggling. The Spireites look set for League One relegation this season, and he has not been able to make much of an impact on their survival bid.
Pennant racked up an impressive 231 Premier League appearances, in a career which saw him predominantly play for Liverpool and Stoke. At Liverpool he played in their 2007 Champions League final defeat to Milan, making him the only player to appear in a European Cup final but never receive an England cap.
He joined Bury in January after he left Singaporean side Tampines Rovers. Frustratingly, the 34-year-old has mainly made the headlines for non-footballing reasons during his stay in Greater Manchester, as he reportedly had thousands of pounds stolen from his locker during a training session. He still has something to prove, appearing only seven times for Bury so far since the turn of the year.
Anton Ferdinand—Southend United
Anton never managed to emulate his older brother Rio in the Premier League, but still established himself as a player of sufficient quality – he made 218 appearances at this level, playing for West Ham, Sunderland and QPR.
He now plays in Essex for the Shrimpers, joining last summer after his release from Reading. Like Ebanks-Blake, he is perhaps not yet a veteran, aged 32, but he is certainly seen as ‘experienced’. He has gained a solid reputation in England’s third tier as Southend push for the play-offs.
Nile Ranger—Southend United
Unlike most others so far on this list, Ranger never managed to establish himself as a Premier League player. But despite only making 26 appearances in the division and never scoring, Ranger’s antics have since become infamous in the football world. His arrest for assault, drink driving and his homophobic comments saw him unwanted by Newcastle, leaving him only able to look lower into the Football League.
The 25-year-old seems to have calmed down a little, letting his football do the talking. He has scored eight League One goals this season in 25 appearances. Questions were again asked of Ranger when in December he was charged with money laundering, but he is certainly on the road to redemption.
It is a little-known fact that the Premier League’s youngest scorer now plays for Bury. It is even more surprising that he is only 28. Vaughan may have achieved his ‘goal’ a little too early, scoring against Crystal Palace for Everton, aged 16 in 2005. He went on to make 52 Premier League appearances, predominantly for Everton, only managing seven goals.
After many loan spells, Vaughan began to gradually slip down the table, and he now finds himself alongside Jermaine Pennant at Bury. Finally he is proving his worth in League One – with 22 goals he is second in the golden-boot standings, and he also has the best minutes-to-goal ration of any player to reach double figures in League One this season. Bury fans are enjoying him, but for everyone else it seems like unfulfilled potential.
Jay Spearing—Bolton Wanderers
Spearing will be remembered for his time at Liverpool, specifically his contribution to the 2010/11 season, when he first broke into the side under Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish. With only 30 Premier League appearances to his name, the midfielder was left doomed the following summer after the arrival of Jordan Henderson from Sunderland. He was left mainly as a cup player, and eventually was loaned out under Brendan Rodgers.
Spearing permanently moved to Bolton following a loan spell there, and as a result followed the club in their relegation to League One last year. The 28-year-old has appeared frequently for Bolton this season and a return to the Championship looks almost certain for club and player.
Adam Le Fondre—Bolton Wanderers (on loan from Cardiff City)
As was the case with team-mate Jay Spearing, le Fondre had one season in the Premier League, though it was by no means a disappointment. Having fired Reading to promotion, he scored 12 goals during their 2012/13 campaign. It was not enough, and the Royals were relegated.
The Englishman has since moved to Cardiff and in January was allowed to move to Bolton on a loan deal. He has been relatively successful, scoring five times in 14 appearances. He will certainly be aiming to play in the Championship come August, and if he stays at Bolton, he will almost certainly fulfil this.
Ryan Taylor—Port Vale
The 32-year-old had a Premier League career to remember. He clocked up 118 appearances across spells at Wigan and Newcastle. Most notably he was a regular in Newcastle’s productive 2011/12 season, where they finished sixth.
He had a disappointing season with Hull last year and after numerous trials elsewhere joined Port Vale last summer, with a contract until January. He then left the club and had a trial with Chicago Fire in the USA, but upon deciding to return to England, Taylor re-signed for Vale in March. Usually a defender, he has proven vital for Vale this term as they scrap for League One survival.
It appears then that signing former Premier League players is quite a gamble; often the moves don’t work out and the contract is cancelled, like Yakubu most recently, or at least not extended. Occasionally, League One can offer a new lease of life for the players, and there are several household names in the third tier enjoying varying degrees of success.