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Jack's still the lad for Ireland

IRELAND U21 team boss Noel Long says he has no doubts about Jack Grealish's commitment to the Irish cause - and he fully expects to see the Aston Villa prospect line out in the green jersey against Germany in an U21 qualifier next week.

Grealish (18) is the focus of intense debate over his international future, with England very keen to recruit the Birmingham-born player who has been capped five times at U21 level by Ireland.

The spotlight only intensified on the lad this week as he made his full debut for Villa in their midweek League Cup defeat to Orient, Grealish's display one of the few bright spots on a dark night for Villa, Grealish making two sub appearances for Villa before that start.

And Villa boss Paul Lambert joined the conversation earlier this week, joking that his only regret was that Grealish was not eligible for Lambert's Scotland.

Aware of England's interest in the player, Martin O'Neill has met Grealish and the player's father and the Derry native left Grealish out of the senior squad this time around to give the player time to assess his options.

But as he ponders his long-term future at senior level, Grealish is content to stay with the U21s and is due to play away to Germany next Friday.


"I have no reason to think that Jack won't be there when we meet up in Germany next Tuesday. I hope everyone who was named in the squad reports in for the game, playing Germany at any level is a massive test and I think our lads will all enjoy the experience," U21 boss King told The Herald.

"I treat everyone the same way and I expect everyone to react the same way to me. I treated Jack Grealish the same as every other player in the times he has been with us. He likes the group we have with the U21s and they like him.

"He is a young boy and it's important he enjoys his football, he certainly enjoys it when he comes in with our U21s and I am looking forward to working with him again next week.

"When the time comes for him to make the step-up at senior level, that's a decision for Jack and his father and the manager to make. In all of these cases the player, and his family, should make the decision that is right for the player."

King has dealt with a similar situation before: from August 2010 to September 2011 James McCarthy was involved with King's U21s, even though the midfielder had already been capped at senior level.

That came at a time when Giovanni Trapattoni appeared to have gone cold on the player as Scottish interest in recruiting McCarthy to the SFA fold hotted up, and the feeling among many observers was that McCarthy was, in school terms, being 'sent back' a year by the senior boss to test his commitment to Ireland before being recalled to the seniors.

"I did go over and speak to James and spend time with him and he was always made feel welcome," says King.

"That was a very positive result for us all as we all know the value that James will add to Ireland for the next 10-15 years.

"Whether the same thing happens with Jack - and I hope it does - we have to respect Jack and his family and remember that he is only 18. He doesn't need to make that big decision right now, he and his family will get that time to make their decision and we have to respect that."