Tuesday 28 February 2017

Scotland game is too big to call up Jack Grealish - Martin O'Neill

John Fallon

Martin O'Neill has said it is too early to call up Jack Grealish, seen here celebrating a Christian Benteke goal for Villa
Martin O'Neill has said it is too early to call up Jack Grealish, seen here celebrating a Christian Benteke goal for Villa
Martin O'Neill has questioned Jack Grealish’s readiness to bolster Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Scotland in June

MARTIN O’NEILL has questioned Jack Grealish’s readiness to bolster Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Scotland in June.

The 19-year-old has vowed to end his international exile in September, but his run in the Aston Villa team, coupled with Ireland’s acute need for attackers, sparked talk of the return being accelerated.

Even if the youngster has a change of heart by making himself available sooner, it appears O’Neill is not interested in adding Grealish to his artillery for the must-win qualifier.

This despite Villa manager Tim Sherwood and team-mates Christian Benteke and Shay Given talking up the teen’s calibre ahead of today’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.

“The game (against Scotland) is too big, it’s massive,” said O’Neill, informed by Grealish last September of his intention to stall his international career, fuelling speculation of him defecting to England, the country of his birth.

“I’m not going to change my mind on my stance — well stance is too strong a word — but to throw him into a game like that would be tough. You’re talking about guys eight or nine years older will be nervous going into the Scotland game,” said O’Neill.

“It’s not that Jack doesn’t lack confidence but he’s a young lad. I’m not so sure I’d be ready for that, ready to put that type of pressure on some young kid just because he made his mind up to play for us. He has to play regularly at Villa, for his own peace of mind as much as anything.

“This time last year, when I was having conversations with him and his father (Kevin), I bet he probably thought he’d have started more often than he has this season. I haven’t asked him that question, but I bet he’d have thought ‘you know what, I bet I’ll start between 15 and 22 games’. And you know what? He hasn’t.”

When it was put to O’Neill that Grealish may have coped with the pressure of playing in front of two full houses at Wembley before the Scotland game, he replied: “Well, we’ll see.”

Speaking in today’s Sunday Independent, Given — who reclaimed the Ireland No 1 jersey in the draw with Poland last month — says Grealish would not be out of place in the squad.

“He should really be involved in the first-team squad at the minute with Ireland I think,” he said. “He is a young guy, you don’t want to rush him into these decisions. But in an ideal world we’d love him to play for us.”

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