Monday 24 October 2016

Martin O'Neill will fast-track Jack Grealish if he says yes

Manager will invite undecided Aston Villa star into September squad if he commits to Ireland

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

Grealish could feature in the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia if he makes a quick decision to represent Ireland over England
Grealish could feature in the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia if he makes a quick decision to represent Ireland over England

Martin O'Neill has admitted that he would be prepared to call Jack Grealish into his squad for September's Euro 2016 qualifiers with Gibraltar and Georgia if he made a quick decision to choose Ireland over England.

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O'Neill confirmed yesterday that he met the Aston Villa teenager along with his father and his agent ten days ago in an attempt to sway the Birmingham native to stick with the nation that he has represented up to U-21 level.

The Irish boss described the discussion as "fruitful" yet expects that the player and his camp want to hear Roy Hodgson's intentions before making a final call.

O'Neill thinks that the end of this saga is imminent, despite reports that the player is prepared to push back his self-imposed deadline of September for nailing his colours to the mast.

And he indicated that he regards Grealish so highly that he would be ready to bring him into the fold immediately.

"I don't see why not?" said O'Neill, "He's got the talent, absolutely, to do it and you've seen that somewhere along the way we need a few extra players to be able to create something for us.

"It would be fantastic if he declared for us. Not just now for the next couple of games - of course there might be a selfish reason for that - but over the course of time. That's what he and his father are looking at, the next 10 years. This is something for the rest of his career at international level.

"I'm sure that they would love to know what Roy Hodgson must think of it all and over the course of time they may do (find out). The meeting was an opportunity for me to really put our viewpoint across and just add a drop of realism.

"He's a talented lad as we all know and, with a bit of luck, would play more often for us than he would for England but who knows? I think they're going to make their mind up pretty soon. When I say 'they' I mean Jack and his father."

Grealish is working his way back to fitness at Aston Villa after an interrupted pre-season and O'Neill does not think that Tim Sherwood will be a factor in his choice even though it's believed he was involved in discussions when a call-up was rejected in June.

"I'm sure Tim himself, if he cared that much, would be wanting something resolved relatively quickly. But if I was in his shoes I wouldn't be overly bothered," continued O'Neill.

"I think where it's moved on from some months ago or maybe this time last year is that I can understand where he was trying to break into the Aston Villa side.

"But now I think that he feels that he's made some sort of an impression there and that sort of hurdle has been overcome so I think it's the next step."

O'Neill is also relaxed about the role of Grealish's representative David Mannaseh.

"It's not a major surprise when you've had meetings before with players that an agent is there. It was a meeting so there wouldn't be anything lost in translation along the way. At least when you're there you know what was said and how it was said."


The recruitment of other players is on the back burner until after the Euros qualifiers this autumn with Norwich's Nathan Redmond another target. But O'Neill says that desire should be the determining factor.

"You have to want to do it," he said. "People talked way back there about babysitting people through it. I don't think that's my job. It's my job to try and encourage someone to come but eventually the decision - as you would expect - will be from the person himself."

As it stands, the provisional squad for next month's games contains 37 names but it will be trimmed down on August 30.

Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane is included after he made his first Premier League start against Liverpool on Monday but he knows not to get too carried away. Adam Rooney (Aberdeen) and Alan Judge (Brentford) were named in the long list for the summer gatherings and ended up missing the final cut.

They're on the list again and there's also a recall for Greg Cunningham with the Galwegian left-back now lining out in the Championship for Preston.

O'Kane told Newstalk last night that he learned the news from club colleague Harry Arter who is struggling with injury.

The convert from the Northern Irish underage set-up added that Michael O'Neill made an unsuccessful tongue-in-cheek attempt to get him back when they met at a charity game in May.

"I wasn't expecting the call," said O'Kane. "Monday was my first league start in 11 months so to presume I was going to be in the squad would be a bit much."

Irish Independent

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