What Gareth Southgate Can Learn From Lower League Three Lions Stars

The England manager is going to look to 'the Championship or elsewhere'
07:00, 21 Mar 2023

Gareth Southgate has spoken about needing to pick from “the Championship or elsewhere” to furnish future England squads. The national team head coach has highlighted the fact that as little as 28% of Premier League players across some weekends this season have been eligible for England duty. "The numbers are the numbers. They're not going up,” as Southgate put it.

Second tier players getting a run-out for the Three Lions is nothing new. If Southgate does go that route, he will be far from the first England manager to do so. Here is a look at how some previous players from outside the top flight have done in an England shirt.


Trevor Brooking

A true England great who is synonymous with the famous Three Lions, Brooking actually made 12 of his 47 international appearances in the second tier. A West Ham United icon, there was never any question of whether Brooking would remain at Upton Park when the club was relegated in 1978. 

Brooking remained an England regular throughout the Hammers’ three years in Division Two. The legendary midfielder even took part in Euro 1980 while plying his trade outside the top tier. West Ham would be promoted in 1981, while Brooking’s final England game would come the following year.

Steve Bull

The Wolverhampton Wanderers legend had just got his club promoted from the Third Division when he was handed a first England cap in 1989. Like Brooking, Bull even played at a tournament while playing outside the First Division, making four appearances at the iconic Italia 90.

The beloved “Bully” netted four goals in 13 full caps for his national side. He would only play a single top flight game for Wolves, in 1986. Bull was on the losing side during two play-off campaigns to reach the Premier League.

Kevin Phillips

Phillips scored goals wherever he went, apart from the England national team. The striker netted 282 times across 660 games for clubs like Watford, Sunderland, Southampton and Birmingham City. He even notched a European Golden Shoe after scoring 30 goals for Sunderland in the 1999/00 season.

But Phillips never managed an England goal across eight appearances in the famous white. His international debut arrived during Sunderland’s 1998/99 promotion season though, capturing a bit of history for the centre forward.

David Nugent

Nugent crammed a lot of history into his sole England appearance. Plying his trade at Championship Preston North End at the time, his second tier background was just the start of this eleven-minute fairytale.

Nugent tapped home Jermaine Defoe’s goalbound shot against Andorra, netting himself the coveted one cap-one goal record only previously secured by Francis Jeffers and Paul Goddard. The fact he snatched Defoe’s chance was probably why he was not invited back. His eleven minutes in heaven remains the shortest England career for a player who has scored an international goal.

Jay Bothroyd

Fabio Capello’s decision to include Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd in his squad to face France in a friendly was an eyebrow-raiser. Even at the time, many questioned why a player who only mustered eleven Championshiop goals in the previous season was representing his country.

Sadly for Bothroyd, he was unable to prove the doubters wrong. England lost 2-1 and the striker offered little in his substitute appearance. Bothroyd did become the first Cardiff player in history to play for England though, and would go on to play Premier League football with Queens Park Rangers the following year.

Wilfried Zaha

Zaha had long been touted for stardom, and was exciting his coaches and fans at Crystal Palace when the call came to represent England. The winger made his debut in a 4-2 defeat to Sweden, replacing fellow debutant Raheem Sterling.

Zaha would be a Manchester United player by the time his second and final cap arrived. Roy Hodgson, who would later manage the player at Crystal Palace, later expressed regret at not playing Zaha in a competitive fixture. Because he had only appeared in friendlies, Zaha was eligible to switch allegiance to the country of his birth, the Ivory Coast, which he did in 2016.

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