11 Players to Represent England While Playing in the Second Tier

England's David Nugent celebrates scorin...
England's David Nugent celebrates scorin... | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

International recognition can be the very pinnacle of a footballer's career. In England, they don't dish international caps out to just anybody - just ask Darren Bent, who has a mere 13 caps to show for his 106 Premier League goals. Inexcusable.

Darren Bent's modest cap collection demonstrates just how elite you have to be to break into the England squad, with selected players predominantly playing domestic football for one of the top teams in the country.

But occasionally the Three Lions boss will look beyond not just the big six, but the entire top tier, and pluck a player from second division obscurity and drop them into the England squad.

1971 - Rodney Marsh (QPR)

Marsh enjoyed a stellar career for QPR, as his goals fired them to consecutive promotions from the third tier to Division One in 1968. However, it wasn't until 1971 when the forward received an international call up, with QPR swiftly returned to the second tier by that point.

He hit 24 goals in the 1970/71 campaign, and in November of the following season he earned his inaugural England cap against Switzerland. Marsh's remaining eight international appearances came while he was playing for Manchester City in the top flight.

1979 - Trevor Brooking (West Ham)

England v Scotland
England v Scotland | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Brooking earned 47 caps for his country, and 12 of those came while he was playing in Division Two.

The midfielder was first called up in 1974 while West Ham were still in the top flight, but when the Hammers were relegated in 1978 Brooking continued to get the nod for England during their three years in the second tier. He even made the squad for the 1980 European Championships while West Ham were still in Division Two.

1979 - Kenny Samson (Crystal Palace)

Samson went on to earn 86 England caps, play in 37 consecutive matches for his country, and feature at two World Cups. The first of his 86 caps came while he was still a second tier player.

Samson had just helped Crystal Palace seal promotion to the First Division when he made his international bow against Wales in 1979, and he went on to become the second most capped England full-back of all time.

1989 - Steve Bull (Wolves)

Steve Bull of England
Ben Radford/Getty Images

Bull made his England debut a matter of weeks after Wolves had secured promotion from Division Three. He made a further 12 appearances for his country, scoring four goals, all of which came when he was playing in the second tier.

Bull was selected for England's legendary Italia 90 squad and made four appearances at the tournament. Wolves' all-time top scorer did play in the top flight for the Midlands' outfit, but never played for England during that time.

1999 - Michael Gray (Sunderland)

Michael Gray and Rossen Kirilov
Michael Gray and Rossen Kirilov | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Just like Steve Bull, Gray never made an England appearance while playing for a top flight club. The full-back made his international debut against Hungary in 1999 while playing for second tier Sunderland, fresh from celebrating promotion.

Gray earned three England caps - two as a substitute and one as a starter - in the space of two and a half months. In 2001, Ashley Cole made his England debut and nailed down the left-back spot for a decade, and Gray never appeared for his country again.

1999 - Kevin Phillips (Sunderland)

Kevin Phillips
Kevin Phillips | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Phillips fired Sunderland back to the top flight in 1998/99 with 23 goals, and made his debut alongside his Black Cats teammate Gray against Hungary.

Despite scoring goals wherever he went throughout his career, Phillips never got off the mark in his eight appearances for his country. He went to the Euros in 2000 after winning the European Golden Shoe, but remained an unused substitute throughout the tournament.

2003 - David James (West Ham)

David James
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

James made his first senior England start in 1997 while at Liverpool, and went on to make 53 appearances for the Three Lions. Four of his caps came while he was plying his trade in the second tier with West Ham.

The Hammers had been relegated in 2003, but James stuck with the club until January 2004 when he sealed a move to Manchester City. Six months on from playing in the second tier, James was England's number one at the 2004 European Championships.

2007 - David Nugent (Preston)

David Nugent
Euro2008 Qualifier - Andorra v England | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

One of the most iconic, inspiring and emotional moments in football history is David Nugent's solitary appearance for his country.

The Preston striker came on for 11 minutes and displayed his predatory striker's instinct by poking home Jermain Defoe's effort just before it was about to cross the line. His 11 minute international career is the shortest in England history, but he remains one of just three players to boast a proud one goal in one Three Lions appearance record, alongside fellow legends Paul Goddard and Francis Jeffers.

2010 - Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff)

Jay Bothroyd, Alou Diarra
England v France - International Friendly | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

England attempted to detox from their underwhelming display at the 2010 World Cup by refreshing the squad and Fabio Capello deemed Jay Bothroyd the man for the job.

Bothroyd came off the bench against France at Wembley to earn his one and only England cap, becoming the first player in Cardiff City history to play for England.

2012 - Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Behrang Safari, Wilfried Zaha
Sweden v England - International Friendly | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Crystal Palace's second entrant on the list comes from Wilfried Zaha, who made one of his two England appearances as a substitute against Sweden, two months before earning his big money move to Manchester United.

Zaha appeared once more for England, before opting to switch allegiances to the Ivory Coast in 2016, making his debut for the country of his birth in 2017.

2014 - Fran Kirby (Reading)

Fran Kirby, Lucy Bronze
England v Mexico: Group F - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 | Elsa/Getty Images

Kirby had been catching the eye in WSL 2 for Reading, where she had an outrageous scoring record, when she was rewarded with an England call-up. She became the first ever WSL 2 player to play for England, and scored on her debut against Sweden.

Kirby was included in the 2015 World Cup squad while still at second tier Reading, scoring a well taken opener in the Lionesses group stage win against Mexico - England's first goal of the tournament.