It’s rare an England manager turns to the Championship to pick a player for their squad. The wealth of talent in the Premier League means a player needs to be doing pretty spectacular to earn recognition when playing elsewhere.
England managers keep an eye on Championship fixtures, though, and sometimes they will delve into the Football League.
It has been less common in recent years, with just five players appearing for England while playing in the Championship in the 21st century, but some of the most famous England players of all-time have pulled on the Three Lions jersey while in the second tier.
Given his prolific record throughout his career – including winning the European Golden Shoe – it’s strange to think that Kevin Phillips made just eight appearances for England. Only one of those was from the First Division during his time at Sunderland.
Phillips even had a teammate called up when the Black Cats were in the second tier with Michael Gray earning three caps in 1999.
One of the most clinical finishers of his generation, Phillips didn’t score for England, but he finished with 282 goals at club level.
Regularly featuring in the latest sports news, Wilfried Zaha earned an England cap in 2012 while playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship.
The quick-footed forward is now an Ivory Coast international, but he was twice capped by England in friendlies.
A disappointing spell at Manchester United and numerous unfulfilled transfer rumours have led to Zaha becoming Palace’s talisman. The Eagles have depended on him under various managers, and he looks set to play out his peak years at Selhurst Park.
Stuart Pearce in an England shirt is an iconic image. Every Three Lions fan can picture Pearce’s caveman-esque celebration after his penalty against Spain. Psycho represented his country for over a decade, accumulating 78 caps.
His hard-nosed style of play and unwavering commitment made Pearce the heartbeat of the England team. He exhibited the same attitude at club level, becoming a fan favourite everywhere he played.
Pearce earns his spot here thanks to three caps when Nottingham Forest were in the Second Division in the mid-90s.
Despite ranking fourth all-time in Premier League appearances, five of David James’ England caps were earned when he was playing for West Ham in the Second Division.
James had several stints as England’s number one, but his career was an up-and-down journey of high-talent and equally high-profile mistakes.
At his best, James looked like one of the top shot stoppers in world football. His 6’4 frame filled the goal, and he had the reflexes to pull off world class saves.
With West Ham in the Second Division, Trevor Brooking appeared for England 12 times in between 1979 and 1981.
Brooking amassed 47 England caps in total, bringing his calm midfield general style to the international stage.
Now working for the FA after stints as West Ham caretaker manager and a pundit for BBC, Brooking has often been in the spotlight since hanging up his boots in 1985.
Peter Shilton has played for England more than anyone else in history. He was playing outside the top flight for just two of his 125 England outings, but that’s all it takes to make it onto this list.
Shilton represented England at five major tournaments, though he’s perhaps best known around the world as the keeper on the receiving end of Diego Maradona’s ‘hand of God’.
Playing long into his forties, the longevity of Shilton is historic, and he holds some records which may not be broken for decades to come.
Over half of Johnny Haynes’ 56 England caps came while representing Fulham in the Second Division.
Haynes stuck with Fulham for the best part of two decades even with the club struggling to compete. He’s widely accepted as the club’s greatest ever player, and in 1961, he was the first player to earn £100 a week.
Pele claimed to have never seen a better passer of the ball than Haynes. Bobby Moore was a great admirer. That’s a strong fan club.
Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Bobby Charlton, Harry Kane, Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Michael Owen are the only players with more goals for England than Tom Finney.
Ever loyal to Preston, Finney made 14 of his 76 appearances when North End were in the Second Division.
Finney is recognised as one of England’s all-time greats. He was the standout performer for club and country, earning plaudits from all corners.
Bill Shankly, in particular, produced some brilliant quips about Finney’s brilliance.
Of course, Alf Ramsey is better known for what he did from the dugout rather than his playing career.
The World Cup winning manager earned just 32 England caps between 1948 and 1953, eight of which came while in the Second Division with Southampton and Tottenham.
An unspectacular player, Ramsey relied on his mind rather than his physical gifts to be an effective right-back. Those who watched him live noted his fearlessness in the tackle and ability to pick out a pass.
Only 18 players have scored more goals for England than Mick Channon.
Doing so in just 46 caps, Channon was prolific for the Three Lions, so it’s no surprise he kept getting picked even when plying his trade for Southampton in the Second Division.
Over half of his caps came while outside the top flight. The vast majority of Channon’s career was spent with the south coast side with a short stint at Manchester City in between two spells with the Saints.