Lambert seeks commitment from 'in-demand' Jack Grealish
Paul Lambert will try where Martin O'Neill failed by attempting to obtain a commitment from Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish on his long-term future.
The 18-year-old was yesterday named in Ireland's U-21 squad for the concluding UEFA qualifier in Germany on Friday week, despite informing senior team manager O'Neill at a meeting this week that he wasn't ready yet to pledge his senior international colours to the mast amid renewed interest from England.
Demand for the teen is not restricted to the international sphere.
Grealish was a target for top English clubs long before he featured as Villa's first substitute in last Saturday's Premier League win at Stoke City but his precarious contract situation has intensified Lambert's eagerness to secure him on a long-term deal.
Grealish has just eight months remaining on his current contract, leaving open the possibility of negotiations with suitors in January should Villa fail to agree terms with the player.
It is understood talks on an enhanced five-year deal have begun and, while there's no desire on Grealish's part to defect from his boyhood idols, the emergence of rivals heightens the importance of newly-appointed chief executive Tom Fox getting the contract over the line sooner rather than later.
O'Neill, meanwhile, will likely be left waiting longer for a signal on Grealish's plans irrespective of whether he wins his sixth U-21 cap in Halle against the Germans.
FIFA rules prevent a player from representing two countries in the same campaign, meaning England would have to wait until the start of the next set of U-21 qualifiers in September 2015 to cap Grealish.
"We all know that Martin O'Neill spoke to Jack about his long term intentions," said U-21 boss Noel King.
"These are big decisions for any boy. Jack is happy to play for us and we're happy to accommodate him.
"If Jack is the next one to progress to the seniors, we'll be delighted for him."
King has handed maiden call-ups to Sean Kavanagh, who made his Fulham debut against Wolves on Wednesday, and recently-recruited Everton striker Sam Byrne.
League of Ireland players don't figure as the game clashes with a full programme of domestic fixtures.
IRELAND U-21 SQUAD - Lawlor (Manchester City), Merz (Karlsruher SC), Griffin (Reading), Long (Reading), Sweeney (Reading), Hoban (Watford), Connors (Dagenham & Redbridge), Kavanagh (Fulham), Watkins-Clark (Stoke City), Lewis (Aston Villa), Sadlier (West Ham Utd), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Grealish (Aston Villa), J Byrne (Manchester City), Garmston (West Bromwich Albion), McEvoy (Peterborough Utd), S Byrne (Everton), Wilkinson (Bolton Wanderers).