Is it too easy to get an England cap? Do England debutants now have less top-flight experience than in previous years? We’ve worked it out…
Gareth Southgate selected uncapped Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Joe Gomez and Tammy Abraham in his latest England squad for friendlies against Germany and Brazil – despite only making 56 Premier League appearances between them.
But have players always been fast-tracked from domestic league football to international heights so quickly? We checked the top-flight history of England debutants since 1997 to see whether experience is less necessary than it used to be…
Over the past 20 years, the average trend for the number of top-flight appearances before an England debut has decreased – but there has been an upturn in the last two years.
In terms of calendar years, there were five England debutants in 1997 and they averaged 75 top-flight appearances.
By 2013, that figure had plummeted to just 21 appearances for six players, including Fraser Forster and Rickie Lambert who earned international debuts without making a single appearance in the Premier League.
In addition, Ross Barkley had only notched 16 league appearances with Everton, while fellow debutants Andros Townsend (23 appearances), Adam Lallana (41) and Jay Rodriguez (46) were also comparatively inexperienced at Premier League level.
Since then, that average has been primarily on the rise, particularly over the last two years, reaching an average of 66 appearances from six players this year: James Ward-Prowse (128), Nathan Redmond (95), Kieran Trippier (56), Michael Keane (51), Harry Maguire (39) and Harry Winks (26).
However, that average will drop to 50 if all three of England’s potential debutants take to the field this week.
Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford only made his professional debut in February last year, but he was playing for England three months later – after just 11 Premier League appearances.
Dele Alli stepped onto the international stage in 2015 – after just seven top-flight fixtures with Tottenham, while Raheem Sterling was also fast-tracked into an England jersey five years ago after 13 league appearances for Liverpool.
Theo Walcott became England’s youngest player at 17 years and 74 days in 2006 – without making one top-flight appearance.
Since 1997, in addition to Walcott, Forster and Lambert, Wilfried Zaha, Jack Butland, David Nugent, Owen Hargreaves and Kevin Phillips have been handed England debuts without playing one minute in England’s top flight.
However, Hargreaves made his name in Germany with Bayern Munich and became the only player in history to represent England without ever having lived in the country.
At the other end of the scale, Kevin Davies made 382 top-flight appearances before making his England debut against Montenegro in 2010 – more than any other player over the last 20 years.
Tim Sherwood racked up 324 appearances before his first international cap in 1999, followed by Leon Osman (259), Trevor Sinclair (218) and James Milner (205).