Which Football Players Can Represent The England National Team? (Explained)

You may have noticed the England National Football team several times. They are one of the greatest national teams in football history.

Over the course of time, several players have made their mark with the Three Lions of England. In case you may wonder about the criteria of players that can represent England.

Here’s what you need to know: 

Which football players can represent the England national team?

According to FIFA, the requirement to represent a country is the demonstration of a “clear connection” to that particular nation. This connection may be established by:

  • Players born in that country.
  • Parent(s) of the player born in that country.
  • Grandparent(s) of the player born in that country.
  • Player resident in the country for at least five years.  

Biological descent is the viable criteria; a player cannot represent his adopted parent’s country.

Once any of these conditions are fulfilled, a player is eligible to represent the country of their choice. In this case, players with a clear connection to England may choose to don the Three Lions crest and play when called up.

Wayne Rooney was born in Liverpool, England and made his debut cap at age 17 in 2003. Since then, the Manchester United legend made 120 appearances for the Three Lions and scored a record tally of 53 goals before he finally retired from international football in 2018.  

FIFA reserves the right to take drastic penalties against national team federations that field ineligible players. 

Thus, if England made the mistake of playing an ineligible player in future, it could cost the team depending on the competition.

In a bizarre story of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Bolivia was sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player. The sanction involved awarding a 3-0 win to the opponents which the player featured against, which ultimately affected the overall CONMEBOL qualification standings.

Peru ultimately gained qualification to the 2018 World Cup ahead of Chile.

Players may switch nationalities

A player can also switch nationalities from his previous country. Under the FIFA rules, a player is permitted to do so if they meet the following conditions:

  • A minimum of three competitive matches played for prior national team
  • Only friendlies played for prior national teams 
  • Only youth-level appearances for prior national teams

The normal rules of eligibility remain to qualify for another national team. However, the player must apply to the FIFA Player’s status committee to fulfil the process. 

Once FIFA approves, the player may feature for his new national team.

Declan Rice is one of the best and most sought–after players in his position. The West Ham midfielder made his international debut with the Republic of Ireland in 2017 – due to biological ties from his paternal grandparents.

However, the England-born player made a decisive switch to the Three Lions. Ever since the decision was approved by FIFA in 2019, Rice has become an important player for the nation.

Players from other British territories

Players born in any British territory can also represent England after a two years residency in the country has been fulfilled. Thus, players that wish to do so must already be eligible to represent one of these nations:

  • Anguilla
  • Cayman Islands
  • Montserrat
  • Bermuda
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Gibraltar

No player has made the England team via this form of eligibility yet.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also British territories along with England. However, there is a pact among the four nations that prevents this form of eligibility.

Thus, players born in any of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without any eligible ties can not represent England nor vice versa.

In a recent development, footballers educated for at least five years on British soil may also claim eligibility for any of the countries in Great Britain including England. 

You can check out these articles to find out more about Scottish and Welsh teams being able to play in the Premier League.

Can Championship players represent England?

The Championship is the second tier league competition of England’s football pyramid. As such, footballers that play here are less highly regarded than their premier league counterparts. 

Since national team call-up processes are directed by the head coach, this means the manager may choose any player for national duty regardless of the league they participate in.  

Players from the Championship have represented England in times past, including:

Kevin Philips was the brightest star of Sunderland, and fired them to the Premier League with his 23 goals in the 1998/99 season. England manager, Kevin Keegan called-up the striker to play for a friendly against Hungary.

Philips played for several teams in England and enjoyed individual success, becoming the only Englishman to win the Golden Shoe. However, he never scored a goal for England across his sparse 8 appearances for the Three Lions.

Sam Johnstone was one of the best players in West Bromwich Albion. The Englishman inspired The Baggies to their most recent premier league stint in 2020/21. 

Although West Brom ended up relegated once more, the shot-stopper’s valiant efforts were recognized by Gareth Southgate who named him in England’s Euro 2020 squad. However he didn’t make an appearance in the competition but in a pre-tournament friendly on 6 June. 

Johnstone kept a clean sheet on his debut and aided England to a 1-0 win over Romania

Wilfred Zaha became a hot prospect in English football after helping Crystal Palace gain promotion to the Premier League in 2013. His incredible performances earned him a move to English giants, Manchester United, and a National team call-up for England.

Prior to his debut, Zaha had represented England at youth level. However, Zaha never played a competitive match for the Three Lions and ultimately switched allegiance to his country of birth, Ivory Coast, in 2016.

Since then, Zaha has played several competitive matches for his native country among 28 caps. 

Can Welsh players play for England?

Although both are part of the United Kingdom, Wales has a separate nationality from England. Thus, Welsh players without English ties cannot feature for England

The four nations pact agreement (between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) also eliminates any possibility of switching nationalities via the residency route.. 

However, Welsh players with English ties have direct eligibility for both countries and thus have the luxury of choosing which. 

Rob Jones represented England in a total of 8 caps. The legendary Liverpool defender was a Welsh citizen being born in Wrexham, Wales before he moved to England as a child.

After impressing at Liverpool, he was selected to wear the Three Lions crest in 1992. Thus, he snubbed Wales in the process and played for England instead.

On the other hand, Gareth Bale was presented with the option to represent England via his biological ties from his English grandmother.

However, Bale snubbed the Three Lions invite for the Dragons of Wales and has achieved many great things for the team, including his decisive part in securing the first World Cup appearance in 64 years for the country. 

Can Scottish players play for England?

In accordance with the four nations pact, footballers from Scotland cannot feature for England or any other British nation. They may only switch from Scotland to England only if they meet the FIFA requirements. 

Although possible, it is highly unlikely for a player of Scottish nationality to make the switch, especially considering the intense rivalry between both nations.

No Scottish player has featured for England in almost 100 years! 

Can Billy Gilmour play for England?

Billy Gilmour emerged from the ranks of Chelsea in 2019 under English legend, Frank Lampard. The young midfield star previously featured for the youth ranks of the Scottish Old Firm clubs, Rangers and Celtic.

Gilmour performed well for the Blues and earned several deserved plaudits. Although having represented Scotland at all youth levels, he was presented with the option of choosing England due to biological ties from his English grandmother.

However, Gilmour snubbed the Three Lions for his nativeland. Since his debut in 2021, the midfielder has amassed 15 caps for the Scotland National team.

Can Haaland play for England?

Erling Halaand is among the most impressive talents in world football. With over 130 goals to his name and a trail of broken records, the Norwegian youngster has taken the world by storm. 

His several exploits in football and recent move to Premier League giants, Manchester City, show that Halaand is already well established at 21 years old. The striker was born and raised in Leeds, England till his parents departed for their native Norway.

As such, Halaand became eligible to play for England. However, he only expressed interest in playing for Norway, whom he also represented at the youth levels

Erling Halaand made his national team debut in 2019 and has scored 20 goals in 21 matches since then. The youngster is already the 9th highest goalscorer of the Norway National team!


The England National team is one of the greatest sides in international football. Many players would relish the honour of representing the Three Lions.

However, only a number of players may do so due in line with FIFA’s eligibility laws. Several players may choose to switch from England and vice versa.

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