Jlloyd Samuel & Nathan Ellington: Ex-Premier League players line up for non-league Egerton FC

Jlloyd Samuel and Cristiano Ronaldo
Jlloyd Samuel was asked to mark Cristiano Ronaldo while playing for Bolton in the Premier League

Imagine turning up for your Saturday football game and finding not one, but two ex-Premier League players in the opposition line-up.

That is the scenario facing opponents of Egerton FC in the 12th tier of the English game this season.

Jlloyd Samuel spent more than a decade in the Premier League with Aston Villa and Bolton, played against teams like Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, and received an England call-up.

Now the 36-year-old is player-manager of Cheshire League One leaders Egerton alongside ex-Barnsley, Huddersfield and Ajax midfielder Dean Gorre, and American businessman Jim Cherneski, coming up against teams such as Cheadle Town Reserves.

Samuel is using his football contacts to attract some other big names to the Knutsford side, with former Wigan striker Nathan Ellington making his debut last month.

Emile Heskey could be next, with the former England striker training at the club, followed by ex-Sheffield United and Manchester United forward Danny Webber and ex-Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce.

Former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage is the club's under-12 coach.

"The team were shocked when I said I would play," Samuel told BBC Sport. "Sometimes I think I am crazy.

"I play on pitches that I have not played on since I was 12. There was one where it was raining like crazy, a proper mudbath. I was thinking 'what am I doing here?' But I just still love playing."

'When you stop you pile on the pounds'

Egerton FC
Jlloyd Samuel (back left) with the rest of the Egerton squad and Dean Gorre (front row, third from left)

Former Trinidad and Tobago international Samuel took over the first XI at the start of the season after being approached by chairman Tom O'Donnell.

He had been running a development programme and training at the club for the previous year, saying: "When you finish football you pile on the pounds, I wasn't one for doing that."

Samuel has had offers from abroad, but said he would rather be near his family, adding: "I don't need to go searching for the last pay day."

Instead, he spends his time among a mixture of ex-professionals, youth and former academy players, but does not see coaching as his long-term ambition.

"It is more of a fun thing and I prefer the business side of things, but I enjoy it. I get to train daily and play at weekends."

Jlloyd Samuel
Jlloyd Samuel (centre) with co-managers Dean Gorre (right) and Jim Cherneski (left)

Ellington, 36, who represented West Brom in the Premier League, has not played competitively since leaving Southport in 2013. That was followed by an unsuccessful spell in Thailand.

"When I came home I realised I had been out of the game for so long, I couldn't get back into it. I ended up having to stop at 33," the former non-league player, who now runs a soccer school and academy in Manchester, said.

"This is back to how it all began. I take it seriously because I want to win games, but there is not as much pressure on this level - I just have to get myself good enough to play 90 minutes."

Samuel and Ellington say they have been recognised by their opponents and have been singled out for some heavy treatment.

"I find it pretty funny and I can look after myself," said Samuel.

"It is more about the surfaces we play on, that is more dangerous because players are able to slide long distances and catch you.

"Some of the ex-pros wouldn't play on them, but luckily our pitch is decent so I guess I will just have to get them to play home games only."

'I looked at the sheep, the sheep looked at me'

Jlloyd Samuel
Jlloyd Samuel spent four seasons in Iran

After leaving Bolton in 2011, Samuel moved to the Iranian top flight, playing first for Esteghlal - where he won the league and cup double - and then for Paykan.

One thing he will not be bringing to Egerton's training sessions is the regular sacrifice of sheep that he experienced in Iran.

"When I first arrived at the training ground, they gave me a special welcome - I saw the sheep, the sheep looked at me, I was looking at the sheep and the next thing the neck is gone," said Samuel. who played in front of crowds of 100,000.

"People were walking through the blood, they put it on themselves and then carried on like nothing had happened.

"I soon realised that was their culture, they do it for good fortune. If they are struggling in the league, or need good luck for a big derby match, then they would do it before a game.

"In the end I would turn around, I did not want to see it, I was not against their religion, but it is something I did not want to see."

Jlloyd Samuel Nathan Ellington
Clubs: Aston Villa (1999-07) and Bolton (2007-11)Clubs: West Brom (2005-07)
Premier League appearances: 240 Goals: 2 Assists: 11Premier League appearances: 31

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