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An EFL timeline of the Three Lions crop’s pathway to the top

Each member of the 25-man England squad has a link to the EFL!

31 August 2021

When Gareth Southgate unveiled the England squad that would lead the Three Lions into the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in September, it was clear that every single member of the latest line-up had something in common – they were all 'Raised in the EFL'.

Below, we take a look back at some of the key turning points in the current England crop’s careers that paved their pathway to the national stage, with each player having played in the EFL, progressed through an EFL academy or made their debut in an EFL competition.

15 November 2008: Defender Kyle Walker makes his debut for Northampton Town against Oldham Athletic on loan from his hometown Club Sheffield United, before returning to Bramall Lane where he was handed his Blades debut in January 2009.

Just five months later, Walker became the youngest-ever Sheffield United player to represent the Club at Wembley Stadium in the 2008/09 Championship Play-Off Final against Burnley, as the Blades narrowly missed out on promotion at the hands of the Clarets.

29 January 2009:  A fresh-faced Jordan Henderson arrives at Coventry City on loan from Premier League parent Club Sunderland on a one-month sojourn and went on to net his first senior goal for the Championship side in February 2009 against Norwich City.

15 January 2010: Future England talisman Harry Kane makes his debut for loan Club Leyton Orient after Russell Slade secured the Tottenham Hotspur youngster’s signature on a temporary basis. The striker got a taste of first-team football in a 1-1 draw with Rochdale and found the back of the net against Sheffield Wednesday a week later in League One.

However, it was at Millwall where he made a name for himself, joining the Lions with Spurs team-mate Ryan Mason, and scooping Millwall’s 2011/12 Young Player of the Year as the London team narrowly avoided a close call with the drop zone.

Kane last graced the EFL in 2012/13, when he helped Leicester to the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals.


9 February 2010: On loan from parent team Manchester City, Kieran Trippier makes his Barnsley debut in 2-1 loss away at Middlesbrough, before returning to Oakwell the following year, making 41 appearances across all competitions in 2011/12 and claiming the Young Player of the Year award.

After signing for Burnley in the wake of a fruitful loan spell, Trippier and the Clarets won promotion from the Championship in April 2014, as the now-30-year-old was named in the Championship Team of the Year for a second consecutive term.

17 February 2010: Despite having a number of top-tier suitors eyeing his signature, Raheem Sterling joins Liverpool from EFL team Queens Park Rangers’ academy, whom he was enlisted by at the age of 10 from a local school team when QPR got wind of the winger’s ability.

12 April 2011: After working his way through the ranks of his hometown Club, Harry Maguire is handed his Sheffield United debut against Cardiff City in the Championship, coming off the bench as a second-half substitute, going on to cement his place in the Blades team and extending his stay at Bramall Lane.

The centre-back eventually departed for Yorkshire counterparts Hull City, where he earned a Premier League move to Leicester City, with a loan spell to Wigan sandwiched in between.

31 December 2011: Boxing Day marked Patrick Bamford’s Championship debut for Nottingham Forest against Cardiff City, before the striker is captured by Chelsea and loaned out to Milton Keynes Dons. Bamford impressed in the EFL, netting his first League goal – the first of many – for the Dons against Crewe in a 2-1 defeat in March 2013.

And all roads led to the EFL for the Three Lions newcomer, who spent time plying his trade with Derby County and Middlesbrough in the Championship, reaching double figures for Boro, where he suffered Play-Off heartbreak twice – once in 2014/15 when the Teesside Club were eliminated by Norwich in the final and again in 2017/18.

17 March 2012: After signing professional terms with his boyhood Club in 2011, John Stones lines up for Barnsley for the first time in the Championship against Reading, aged 17. Despite the fixture ending in a 4-0 defeat for the Reds, Stones went on to establish himself in the senior squad before catching the eye of Everton.

And, eight years later, Stones lifted the Carabao Cup trophy with Manchester City, beating Spurs in the Final and having won the EFL competition twice with the Premier League heavyweights.


28 August 2012: Having been on the books of Southampton’s academy since the age of seven, Luke Shaw started for the Saints for the first time in the League Cup, against Stevenage, as the then-Championship outfit ran out 4-1 winners in the tie.

The full-back played the full 90 minutes as Southampton booked their place in Round Three in the first-ever encounter between the two Clubs.

4 May 2013: Nick Pope makes his Charlton Athletic debut in the final game of the 2012/13 season, entering the fray as a 71st-minute substitute against relegation-doomed Bristol City and rewarded by manager Chris Powell following successful loans with York City.

Pope, who was released by Ipswich Town’s academy at the age of 16, would return back out on loan once more in 2014/15, adding a League Two promotion to his CV with Bury.

On the same day, Tyrone Mings made his senior debut for Ipswich Town against Burnley, as Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys fell to defeat as the curtain came down on the campaign. The defender later re-joined the EFL during a loan spell with Aston Villa from AFC Bournemouth, playing his part in Villa’s promotion from the Championship.

2 August 2013: On the back of successful loan stints with non-league outfits, Jordan Pickford heads out to League Two side Burton Albion from parent Club Sunderland.

Temporary spells with Carlisle United and Bradford City follow before the goalkeeper follows in the footsteps of England team-mate Johnstone and joins Preston North End on a season-long loan for the duration of the 2015/16 campaign. It was at Deepdale that he equalled a Club record, keeping six consecutive clean sheets.

14 September 2013: On a youth loan from the Club he joined at the age of six, Jack Grealish makes his debut for Notts County in a 3-1 defeat to MK Dons, before the temporary agreement was extended in January 2014 until the end of the campaign. The forward finished the 2013/14 season with five goals and seven assists in 38 outings.

The now-25-year-old linked back up with the EFL in 2016 as Villa suffered relegation to the Championship, and Birmingham-born Grealish captained the team to promotion, beating Derby in the 2018/19 Play-Off Final.

21 September 2013: It was a debut to remember for Jesse Lingard who notched not one, not two, not three but four goals on his Birmingham City debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, on loan from Manchester United, heading straight into Blues’ starting line-up.

The attacking midfielder had already gained valuable EFL experience the previous season with Championship rivals Leicester City and would build on that when he returned to Old Trafford, spending time at Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County.

12 Jan 2015: Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone is loaned out to hometown Club Preston North End by Manchester United following temporary spells across League One and the Championship at Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town and Doncaster Rovers.

The Red Devils loanee goes on to win promotion to the Championship with the Lilywhites, keeping a clean sheet in the League One Play-Off Final against Swindon Town, as Preston cruised to a 4-0 victory.

He was later loaned out to Aston Villa before making the permanent switch to West Bromwich Albion, suffering Play-Off heartbreak before the Baggies bounced back to the Premier League as Championship runners-up in July 2020.


7 March 2015: After eight years in Championship Club Watford’s academy, Jadon Sancho was scouted by Premier League Manchester City, leaving the Hornets behind for pastures new.

6 April 2015: Homegrown talent and former captain of Leeds United’s development squad Kalvin Phillips proved himself on his Championship debut against Wolves in a 4-3 defeat, having been on the fringes of the senior squad and featuring on the bench during a number of outings.

Following a change in management, Phillips thrived under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa and, alongside England team-mate and Leeds’ leading marksman Bamford, the pair achieved promotion with Leeds back to the Premier League following a 16-year absence.

21 April 2015: Dominic Calvert-Lewin makes his Sheffield United debut in League One as the Blades recorded a 1-1 stalemate with Leyton Orient. The South Yorkshire-born striker then headed out on loan to Northampton, managing eight goals in 26 appearances for the Cobblers.

3 July 2015: Conor Coady joins Huddersfield Town’s Championship rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, having spent a single season with the Terriers and signing from Premier League Liverpool, where he became acquainted with the EFL during a loan spell with Sheffield United.

Coady went on to win promotion from the Championship with Wolves in 2017/18, marking his 120th League appearance with his first goal for the West Midlands team who were later confirmed as champions.

30 August 2016: Declan Rice stars for and captains West Ham United’s Under-21s in the EFL Trophy, as the Hammers were overturned 4-2 by Coventry City in their Group D opening tie and starring against Northampton’s senior side.

25 October 2016: Trent Alexander-Arnold makes his professional Liverpool bow in a 2-1 Round Four League Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur, recognised in the Team of the Round. The full-back was subsequently given the nod against Leeds United in the next round, opening the scoring in a 2-0 victory as Liverpool progressed to the Semi-Finals.


27 July 2018: At the beginning of the 2018/19 season, Reece James heads out on loan to Wigan Athletic in search of first-team experience, helping the Championship side to an 18th-placed finish, before being named in the Championship Team of the Year and receiving three end-of-season accolades from the Latics.

3 August 2018: Mason Mount scores on his Derby County debut after joining on a season-long loan earlier in July. However, the Chelsea man endured a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring complaint before returning to the Rams’ side with a bang, bagging a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Bolton Wanderers in April 2019, and reaching the Championship Play-Off Final.

12 September 2018: Bukayo Saka turns out for the Arsenal Under-21s in a 3-0 EFL Trophy triumph over Coventry and going on to chalk up further appearances against Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers. The Gunners youngster also popped up with a superb goal in Round Two against EFL opposition Portsmouth.

6 August 2019: Sought-after starlet Jude Bellingham dislodges Trevor Francis as Birmingham City’s youngest-ever player on his debut against Portsmouth in Carabao Cup Round One, before making his EFL debut for Blues 19 days later.

The midfielder continued to break records, becoming the Championship Club’s youngest -ever goalscorer by the end of the month, coming off the bench to bag the matchwinner against Stoke City. A move to German giants Borussia Dortmund would follow, of course.

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