Jack Grealish should never be called up again - Cunningham
Published 14/05/2015 | 02:30
Tim Sherwood's weekly press duties at Aston Villa today could be taken over by more Jack Grealish talk as the furore over his decision to reject Martin O'Neill's call rumbles on.
Strong comments from former Ireland skipper Kenny Cunningham have provoked discussion in Birmingham, where he used to play for Villa's arch rivals, and summed up the sentiment of angry Irish fans who are offended by Grealish's decision to turn down an invitation into the senior squad.
Cunningham has little sympathy for Grealish's predicament, firmly believing that the player should know where he stands by now following a long involvement with the Irish underage set-up.
And he thinks that O'Neill should now simply move on without the teenager, even if he expressed a desire to pull on the green jersey in September.
Significantly, Cunningham feels that the Derryman was right to put the spotlight on Grealish this week by calling him up because he had to be conscious of the feeling within his dressing room. He feels that other squad members will be frustrated.
"I'm sure this will grate a bit, seeing the attitude of Jack," said Cunningham, speaking on Newstalk. "I would think there would be players who'd share my opinion. You have to consider the dynamic within the dressing room.
"My gut reaction... every bone in my body is telling me, no, this is all wrong, we've got to move on. We've got to be fair to the other players. I wouldn't even say that it's disrespectful to players who've worn the jersey.
"I would say it's disrespectful to the players who haven't, the lads striving in England and Scotland and even back in the League of Ireland who have a real ambition, a burning desire to go and one play for Ireland one day."
It has been reported that influential figures at Aston Villa have urged Grealish to take his time about confirming his allegiance in order to concentrate on club matters, a suggestion that Sherwood may have to tackle today.
But Cunningham has adopted an uncompromising stance and thinks Grealish has missed his Irish chance.
"For me, that's it, the line has already been drawn," he said. "I wouldn't call him up again. This lad is 19 years of age. You make a decision to play for your country with your heart, you don't make it with your head. He's got to want to do it, he's got to want it badly. Clearly he doesn't want it badly.
"It's not a decision based on logic. It's a decision you make with your heart and you make it instantaneously.
"For me, it's a point of principle. I don't care how good the player is and he has some magnificent attributes. This is an invitation to play for the senior international team, you should only get one opportunity. We're embarrassing ourselves if we continue down this particular road."
Cunningham's view found support on social media, with his rugby counterpart Brian O'Driscoll endorsing his stance, although both would have lined out alongside players who chose Ireland as a second choice.
Grealish is a Twitter user and numerous irate Irish followers have sent him angry messages about his dilemma, vitriol which serves no practical purpose.
Cunningham would be against welcoming the youngster back if he ultimately decided to go green.
"For me, I don't think we should hang around, and wait and wait and wait fingers crossed and then throw our arms when he eventually decides 'Do you know what lads? I've decided to play for you'," he continued.
"Surely we're not going to put ourselves in that position, we're too proud a football country. This lad is 19, he's a man and he's man enough to make this decision."