Everyone has heard the complaints about the level of foreigners in the Premier League, and now the Championship. I know I am at risk of sounding like a Daily Mail column, going on about “them foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs”, but stay with me. Drop down a league further, and the International talent dries up somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, there are some foreginers plying their trade in the lower leagues, but only a handful have been capped by their countries at full or under 21 level.
Here are five of the top non British and Irish internationals currently playing in Leagues One and Two.
Sander Puri has played 5 times this season for York in an injury interrupted start to the season, but the ex St Mirren player has played 53 times already for Estonia at the age of 24.
Puri was born in Tartu and made his debut at 16 for one of the countries capital teams, Levadia Tallinn. While at Tallinn, Sander and his twin brother were loaned out to JK Viljandi Tulevik, and it was here that he made an impact. Celtic and Borussia Dortmund were both interested, and Tony Mowbray described him as the Baltic Arjen Robben.
Puri has played twice in the Champions League with Levadia Tallinn, but now finds himself at York City, where the winger has signed a two year contract. The Estonian has 3 international goals.
Kari Arnason plays for Rotherham United in League One, and was a pivotal figure in the Millers second place finish in League Two last season. The Icelandic international is a versatile figure and can play either in central defence or central midfield. He is a calming player and likes to get his foot on the ball, head up and pick out a pass.
The 30 year old has previously played for Djurgårdens IF in Sweden where he won the league and cup double in 2005, Plymouth and Aberdeen, where Rotherham signed him from in 2012.
Kari plays in central defence for Iceland and has appeared 20 times, scoring one goal so far.
Benin international captain Romuald Boco can be found at Home Park, where he plays for Plymouth Argyle. Boco, who is known as the King of Benin in his home country started his career at French National club, Chamois Niortais, where he made just two appearances before signing for Accrington Stanley in 2005.
Boco is becoming the epitome of the journeyman footballer. Boco has had spells at Sligo Rovers in Ireland (three times), Accrington Stanley (twice), Burton Albion and Shanghai East Asia before signing a one year contract with Plymouth Argyle in July 2013. He has played for Benin 37 times and scored 9 goals.
Brentford surprised everyone with the deadline day signing of Raphael Calvet. Uwe Rosler acted quickly to bring the 19 year old into the London club after it was announced he had left Auxerre. He had a trial at Cardiff City, but failed to win a contract in the summer.
Calvet has been capped at every level for the French National side up to Under 20. The 6 foot tall defender captained the U16, U17 and U18 squads. While he has yet to make his first senior appearance for the Bees, he is highly rated and it is thought he will go far at the club.
Finally, I give you Trinidad & Tobago’s Chris Birchall, currently playing for Port Vale in League One.
Birchall’s career has come full circle. He started his career with the Valiants, playing 78 times between 2001 and 2006. It was during his first stint with Vale that Birchall was called up for Trinidad and Tobago’s national side. It was reported Birchall was the first white player for 60 years to play for the Soca Warriors. Chris qualified by the fact that his mother was born in Port of Spain.
Birchall has secured his place in Trinidad & Tobago folklore. In the first leg of their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off against Bahrain, Birchall fired a stunning equaliser from well outside the penalty area. Trinidad & Tobago famously won the return leg in Bahrain 1-0 and qualified for the world cup. Birchall figured in all three of the country’s games; against Sweden, England and Paraguay.
Since the famous World Cup, Birchall has played for Coventry City and Brighton before joining up with David Beckham at LA Galaxy in 2009. During a three year stay in America, Birchall won the treble with the Galaxy, scoring a solitary goal in 66 appearances.
Following a breif stint with Columbus Crew, Birchall returned to his beloved Port Vale, where he helped Vale to promotion from League 2 in 2013.
Chris Birchall announced his international retirement in August 2013.