Ian Rush: John Bull is talking bull by saying Grealish isn't Irish
Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30
This time last week Jack Grealish was an Irish U-21 international who no one in England seemed to care about.
Then Wembley happened. All of a sudden the question being asked was not just whether England 'could get Jack back' but about the 'moral right' of Ireland to poach one of 'our better young players'.
It was fairly incredible to see how quickly attitudes changed and even more striking when one commentator suggested Ireland had no claim to a player who was born and bred in Birmingham.
That sort of argument is easily rubbished and, without meaning to be crude, is pure bull.
As a country, no doubt you are aware of Eoin Morgan. No doubt you are proud of the fact that one of your own has mastered a sport the English invented and has gone on to not just represent England but captain their one-day international cricket side.
You may, reasonably, wonder why he is not captaining the Ireland team but no major fuss has been made about his decision to switch allegiance, partially because of cricket's status as a sport in Ireland, but also because of Morgan's circumstances.
To make a decent living as a cricketer, he has to go to England. That's just an economic reality.
Yet it was also the reality of so many Irish people in the 1950s, 1060s, 1980s and again the post-Celtic Tiger generation.
It was undoubtedly the reality Jack Grealish's grandparents faced when they emigrated from Ireland.
Do you think they would have made that trip by choice? Or do you believe they worried for their futures and the futures of their children?
Are we stretching it to question whether they thought about the better lives their children's children might have if they found work in a new city, a new country?
When Ireland first called up Jack Grealish, they weren't just being opportunist. They were conscious of those emigrants from the 1950s. They were also conscious of what happened in Euro '88 and Italia '90 when there were just eight Irish-born players in those squads that gave the country such a boost. Success like that does not just lift the morale of a small nation. It boosts the economy.
So make no mistake, morally it is the right call. And legally it is the right call. Football's rules allow it. End of argument.
But I'm not in the mood to stop. No doubt you know all about Eoin Morgan. I'm sure you have heard of Ed Joyce, the batsman from Bray, who also represented England. Does Derry's Boyd Rankin's name ring a bell? He played for Ireland first, then England. What about Martin McCague, who was born in Larne but brought up in Australia and who played three Tests for England in the 1990s?
In total, there have been 61 England Test cricketers who represented their country after being born abroad. Some of those - Ted Dexter (born in Italy), Tony Greig (South African-born and bred), Douglas Jardine (Indian-born) and Kevin Pietersen (born and raised in South Africa) were major players in the game's history.
Their football team too has featured many players who were not born in England. John Barnes anyone? Raheem Sterling?
Yet no one kicks up a fuss about it. We let them get on with it. It is only when English people start lecturing smaller countries about robbing their players that we feel the need to stand up for smaller countries and point out a few home truths.
Aside from all this, the question now is whether Jack Grealish will declare for Ireland. Certainly he's good enough and while Martin O'Neill has said he wouldn't throw him into a game as big as the Scotland one, soon he may reconsider his position.
Personally, I cannot see how Jack Grealish's presence in the Irish squad would weaken them. At worst, he would be a brilliant option to bring on from the bench.
Certainly from Grealish's perspective, the offer of an Irish senior call-up, albeit just for a friendly, versus the possibility of playing for England's U-21 side, should be a no-brainer.
It has to be Ireland. He has to show some loyalty. Ireland have invested in his future and will bring him along quicker than England can.
Certainly he's progressing nicely at Villa, particularly since Tim Sherwood went there. Last Sunday he was immense. Some players go to Wembley and freeze but Grealish seemed to love the occasion. Certainly he was made for it. He drove at the Liverpool defence, he released his passes at the correct moments, he made smart decisions every time he got the ball.
Now he needs to make another intelligent choice. Go with Ireland, Jack. You aren't just representing a country by doing so, but your grandparents who left to give you a better life.