Football Features

Eight England internationals you probably didn’t realise had loan spells abroad

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:25, 12 July 2019

English footballers playing abroad is often seen as a rare phenomenon but there have been plenty of high profile examples down the years.

Jadon Sancho is currently the only member of Gareth Southgate’s squad plying his trade in a foreign league, but given the average career length is eight years, it’s understandable why his teammates prefer to remain in the affluent Premier League.

But, it wasn’t always like this, England internationals were once common in France, Italy and Spain – this was, of course, before 1992 when everything changed.

That being said, it’s common now to see youngsters go overseas to learn their craft, those coming through Chelsea’s renowned academy can tell you firsthand.

The loan system made this possible and plenty of well-known names benefited. As follows are eight England internationals who had temporary foreign spells you might not have known about.

Teddy Sheringham

Club: Djurgårdens IF (1985)

Teddy Sheringham would go on to collect no fewer than 51 caps with England, scoring 21 goals along the way. But before making his international debut the Highams Park-born marksman was making a name for himself at Nottingham Forest who signed him from boyhood club Millwall.

It was at the south London club where he enjoyed two loan spells in 1985 firstly at Aldershot then Swedish outfit Djurgårdens, whilst representing the latter he’d bag 13 goals across 21 league matches whilst showing incredible prowess that convinced the Lions and the rest is history.

Les Ferdinand

Club: Beşiktaş (1988-89)

Another young and promising striker making waves in the late 80s was QPR’s own Les Ferdinand who like so many of his peers would learn his craft whilst on loan. He’d initially join fellow London club Brentford before representing Turkish club Beşiktaş for a season.

At the Istanbul side, he truly made an impact, scoring 14 goals in 24 league games. It convinced his parent club who retained Ferdinand’s services until 1995, during which time he debuted for England, when Newcastle United swopped in.

Lee Sharpe

Club: Sampdoria (1998-99)

Unlike most on this list Lee Sharpe, who collected the last of his eight England caps in 1993, travelled abroad in the latter stages of his playing career. The former Manchester United forward was at Leeds United, his immediate next club after leaving Old Trafford, before Sampdoria temporarily acquired him for a season.

His spell in Italy, though, yielded just three league appearances. His only start, which lasted for 56 minutes, came in 3-1 defeat to Bari in January 1999.

Peter Crouch

Club: IFK Hässleholm (2000)

Peter Crouch has recently brought an end to a 21-year playing career. The affable centre-forward came through at Tottenham Hotspur, but never got a look in under George Graham, instead would spend time on loan at Dulwich Hamlet before an unconventional trip north to Swedish club IFK Hässleholm where he struck three times in eight league outings.

He’d return home with his Spurs future sealed, a move to QPR followed, before a journeyman career that included 42 international appearances for England in which he scored 22 goals.

Tom Heaton

Club: Royal Antwerp (2006)

The partnership between Manchester United and Royal Antwerp, where the Red Devils would send youth players to develop, saw more than 30 academy graduates play at the Belgian club. Some of the more notable names include John O’Shea, Jonny Evans and Luke Chadwick but in 2006 they acquired Tom Heaton though he never played a single minute in the league.

Ryan Shawcross

Club: Royal Antwerp (2007)

Another future England international who came through at Man Utd before relocating to Royal Antwerp was Ryan Shawcross, but unlike Heaton the central defender received ample playing time. During his brief stint in Belgium Shawcross made 22 league appearances, scoring three goals in the process.

A future with the Old Trafford-based club was slim, given the names in front of him, Shawcross would subsequently make his loan to Stoke City a permanent one and in 2012 – following a string of notable performances – he earned his first and only Three Lions cap.

David Bentley

Club: FC Rostov (2012-13)

In the end, David Bentley fell out of love with football, hanging up his boots before his 30th birthday. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, after breaking through at Arsenal, many earmarked him for a bright career.

A lack of opportunities in north London and following a spate of loan spells he’d join Blackburn and Spurs before enjoying more temporary spells one of which took him to Russian side FC Rostov where he made seven league appearances without registering a goal.

Ryan Mason

Club: Lorient (2013)

An unfortunate head injury saw Ryan Mason bring to an end a promising career. The former Spurs youth player, who made over 50 league appearances for the senior team, is not back at the club in a coaching capacity.

As he was making his way up, the Lilywhites would send him on loan to various clubs, the vast majority in England, but among them was a spell in France with Lorient albeit he never represented their first team in a competitive game.