The National League is the fifth tier of English football, a place where players often thrive, and clubs strive to move up the football pyramid into the Football League. Many players make long careers in the National League. However, who are the ten players who have made the most appearances in the fifth tier?
Paul Rutherford (378 appearances for Barrow, Southport and Wrexham)
The winger made a name for himself in the north west of England, plying his trade at Barrow, Southport and Wrexham. The Wirral-born star started his career in the Liverpool academy before a short stint at Chester City. During his National League career, Rutherford scored 17 goals and produced 43 assists.
The winger’s last club was Welsh outfit Bala Town, who he left in the summer of 2023 after 28 appearances in the Cymru Premier.
Kenny Davis (372 appearances for Braintree Town, Boreham Wood, Sutton United and Aldershot Town)
The midfielder started his career playing at Redbridge before stints at Harlow Town and Grays Athletic. Davis’ first move to a fifth-tier club came in 2010 when he joined Braintree Town in 2010. His record of 372 appearances at the fifth-tier level is impressive.
Davis also enjoyed a season in League Two with Sutton United. Even after United’s promotion to the EFL, the midfielder continued to work as a black cab driver. He retired from playing in November 2022, with his last games coming during a loan spell at Aldershot Town.
Kyle Storer (371 appearances for Kidderminster, Wrexham, Cheltenham Town and Solihull Moors)
The former Leicester youngster enjoyed a long career in the fifth tier of English football, representing four clubs. His longest stint at any club was at Solihull Moors, where he spent five years before ending his contract in 2023. The same summer Storer became the player/assistant manager of Nuneaton Borough.
Jamal Fyfield (368 appearances for York City, Grimsby Town, Welling United, Wrexham, Gateshead and Boreham Wood)
The Leyton Orient youth product is highly experienced at the National League level, having represented six clubs in the fifth tier of the English game. The centre-back enjoyed the most stable stint of his career at Boreham Wood, where he continues to feature after five years with the club.
Mark Ricketts (367 appearances for Woking and Boreham Wood)
The versatile star started his career at Charlton Athletic but failed to make a first-team appearance for the Addicks. However, he has carved out a career in the National League, particularly at Boreham Wood, where he spent seven seasons before a move to the Isthmian League Premier Division club Dulwich Hamlet in the summer of 2023.
Chris Bush (366 appearances for Gateshead, Boreham Wood, Welling United, AFC Wimbledon, Lincoln City, Hereford United, Ebbsfleet United and Bromley)
The defender started his career as a youngster at Brentford but never featured for the Bees’ senior team. However, he has featured for eight clubs in the National League. The most prolonged spell of his career in the National League came in a stint with Bromley from 2019 until 2022, although he spent half the 2022/23 season on loan at Boreham Wood.
John Rooney (354 appearances for Chester City, Wrexham, Guiseley, Barrow, Stockport County and Oldham Athletic)
The younger brother of England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney, John started his career as a youth player at Everton before short stints at Macclesfield Town and MLS outfits New York Red Bulls and Orlando City. He also had spells with Barnsley and Bury in the EFL before embarking on his National League career.
Rooney has been prolific in his role in midfield in the National League, scoring 92 goals in the fifth tier. His 17 goals for Barrow in season 2019/20 helped the north west club win promotion to League Two.
Alan Massey (353 appearances for Braintree Town and Maidenhead United)
The centre-back kicked off his football career at Wealdstone with a solitary appearance in the FA Cup before his move to Braintree Town in the 2012/13 season. The defender has played 247 times for Maidenhead United in the National League. Massey’s contract with United expired in the summer of 2023.
Will Evans (346 appearances for Hereford United, Newport County, Eastleigh, Aldershot Town, Chesterfield and Boreham Wood)
The defender started his football career at Swindon Town but only made just one appearance for Town in a Football League Trophy encounter. He has since carved out a successful career in the fifth tier of the English game. The longest the defender has played for a club in the National League was between 2018 and 2021, when he was a regular in the Chesterfield defence.
Shaun Pearson (343 appearances for Grimsby Town and Wrexham)
The centre-back represented Grimsby Town and Wrexham in the fifth tier of the English game. He is most associated with the Mariners, as the defender made 264 appearances for Town. Pearson helped Grimsby to three play-off finals, two of which they won to gain promotion to the Football League. Pearson officially hung up his playing boots in the summer of 2023 when he moved into a non-playing role at Grimsby.