Teams in the 12th tier of English football are raising their game for Egerton FC who count two former Premier League players amongst their ranks.
Jlloyd Samuel spent more than 10 years with Premier League sides Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers but now, at the age of 36, he is player manager at the Knutsford-based outfit.
Egerton are currently top of Cheshire League One and Samuel is heading up team operations alongside ex-Barnsley, Huddersfield and Ajax midfielder Dean Gorre, and American businessman Jim Cherneski.
“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.”
Samuel is using his Premier League contacts to attract other former top flight players, with ex-West Brom striker Nathan Ellington also at the club.
Emile Heskey is training with the club and may be the next to sign, while ex-Sheffield United and Manchester United forward Danny Webber and former Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce are also on the radar.
Samuel took over the first team at the start of the season after running a development programme and training at the club for the previous year.
Ellington, who has not played competitively since leaving Southport in 2013 and had an unsuccessful spell in Thailand, said: “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.
“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.”
The two players have been targeted for some rough treatment by opponents this season, but Samuel is taking it in his stride.
“I find it pretty funny and I can look after myself,” he said.
“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.”