The National League is often a breeding ground for young players hoping to break into the EFL. However, the division also has its fair share of older, seasoned professionals who play well into the twilight of their football careers and beyond. However, who are the oldest players to ever feature in the English fifth tier?
Bernhard Hirmer (44 years, 03 months, and 11 days for Stockport County)
The German goalkeeper is the oldest player to ever feature in the National League. The former Dynamo Dresden stopper featured for Stockport County in a 5-0 defeat against Southport in March 2012.
Hirmer, now in his 50s, is currently a coach at Hartlepool, who suffered relegation to the National League in season 2022/23.
Dale Belford (43 years, 09 months, and 14 days for Tamworth)
Unsurprisingly, the second-oldest player to appear in the National League is also a goalkeeper. Belford made his final National League appearance for Tamworth in a 4-2 defeat at Wrexham in April 2011.
Having enjoyed a long career, the former Notts County and Nuneaton ‘keeper finally officially retired in July 2014.
Darren Sheridan (43 years, 08 months, and 08 days for AFC Barrow)
The well-travelled midfielder enjoyed a long EFL career, appearing for Barnsley, Wigan and Oldham before dropping down the leagues. He last appeared as a player for Barrow in April 2011, when his team suffered a 3-1 defeat against York City.
At the time, Sheridan was also Barrow’s manager. He left the club by mutual consent in February 2012 in controversial circumstances. Sheridan later went on to manage Salford City for a short period in season 2012/13 before working behind the scenes at Plymouth Argyle.
Paul Musselwhite (43 years, 04 months, and 06 days for York City)
The goalkeeper is arguably best known for his stint in the EFL with Port Vale, where he made over 300 appearances. He also had two spells with Scunthorpe and a stint at Hull City before dropping down the leagues.
Musselwhite was at York City for two seasons, making three appearances from 2011 until 2013. His latest appearance for City came in a 1-0 home win against Forest Green Rovers in April 2012. He is currently a goalkeeping coach at his former club Scunthorpe.
Paul Furlong (42 years, 05 months and 16 days for Kettering Town)
Having started his career in non-League football with Sutton United, Furlong featured for the likes of Coventry, Birmingham and QPR. However, the highest profile period of his career was arguably at Chelsea. In fact, in 1993, Furlong became the Blue’s record signing when he joined the club from Watford for a fee of £2.4m, which was a club record fee at the time.
Furlong gradually dropped down the divisions. The forward’s final appearance in the National League came for Kettering Town in March 2011 in a 3-2 defeat against Hayes and Yeading.
Peter Clarke (41 years, 03 months and 26 days for Oldham Athletic)
Clarke came through the youth system of Everton before making his name at the likes of Blackpool, Southend United and Huddersfield Town. Later in his career, he also played for Fleetwood Town and Tranmere Rovers.
Clarke’s last National League game came in the 2022/23 season when he featured for Oldham in a 1-1 draw against Bromley. In the summer of 2023, the defender extended his playing career by signing a contract with National League North club Warrington Town.
Jamie Cureton (41 years, 03 months and one day for Eastleigh)
The forward was a familiar face in the EFL, featuring for the likes of Norwich, Bristol Rovers and Reading. Cureton has made 951 appearances in the various leagues of the English football pyramid and is still contracted to Isthmian League North Division outfit Enfield.
However, the well-travelled striker’s last appearance in the National League came at the grand old age of 41 years, 03 months and one day, when he featured for Eastleigh in a 2016 defeat at Maidstone United.
Efe Sodje (40 years, 11 months and 19 days for Macclesfield Town)
The defender became something of a cult hero in the lower echelons of English football, having featured for Stevenage Borough, Macclesfield Town, Huddersfield Town and Bury. During his career, he also picked up 12 caps for Nigeria.
However, his last fifth-tier outing was for Macclesfield in a 2-1 victory at Barnet in September 2013. Sodje was also Town’s assistant manager from 2013 until 2015.
Edgar Davids (40 years, 09 months and 15 days for Barnet)
Without a doubt, the most high-profile player on this list, the Dutch maestro, was once considered by many as one of the biggest football stars in the world. During his career, the midfielder played for European giants such as Ajax, Juventus, Milan, Barcelona and Inter.
However, in one of arguably the most bizarre moves, Davids became player-manager of Barnet in 2012, who were at the time a League Two club. However, they suffered relegation to the then-Conference Premier in 2013. The club retained his services as player-manager despite the clubbing dropping out of the league.
Davids’ final appearance of an eventful spell in the fifth tier of English football came on 28th December 2013, in a 2-1 defeat at Salisbury City. He is now the assistant manager of the Netherlands national team, a role he began in 2022.
Craig Dundas (40 years, 03 months and 13 days for Sutton United)
The London-born forward is well-travelled in the English non-League scene, having played for, amongst others, Croydon, Hampton & Richmond Borough and Sutton United. It was with the latter that he made his final fifth-tier appearance in May 2021 in a 2-0 defeat at Barnet.
Dundas still has a player contract at Sutton, although his primary role with the club is now as a fitness and conditioning coach.
Who are your favourite players from our list of golden oldies?