Saturday 23 November 2019

Give Grealish space, even if he is clearly leaning towards England

Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish is wanted both by the FAI and the English FA
Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish is wanted both by the FAI and the English FA

Joe Molloy

So the Jack Grealish situation has blossomed quite quickly into the Jack Grealish saga over the past number of days.

His silky and strikingly assured performance on Sunday has alerted the English media to the extent of his talents and they have promptly turned up the heat on the FA.

Of course, neither the FAI nor the FA had wanted to lose Grealish anyway, but now this is a very public battle where widespread criticism awaits the losing party, be that fair or not.

Grealish's father Kevin has hardly helped dampen matters. His post-Wembley victory tour has extended to live radio interviews on BBC 5live on Monday and Talksport yesterday, where he joked about his son playing 45 minutes for both countries in June. It didn't really seem like a good joke.

Shay Given was on our show on Monday night. The Villa goalkeeper would like to see Grealish in the Ireland team immediately.

Manager Martin O'Neill urged caution and patience in the Sunday papers, but who knows, perhaps he was swayed like a lot of us by the maturity of Grealish's performance in front of 90,000 at Wembley.

So how do the FAI play this now? How does O'Neill play it?

Increasingly, one feels like the longer this saga goes on, the more likely Grealish is to declare for England.

There has obviously been a reservation there on his part for some time.

And ultimately, as disappointing as it would be to lose him, I think we have to respect that reservation.

I really don't want a situation where a 19-year-old is unduly pressurised or strong-armed into playing for Ireland.

Invariably he'll come to resent us for it. Even though it feels like the situation has ratcheted up a notch this week, I hope we give him the space he's asked for.

Irish Independent

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