Tuesday 24 October 2017

Stephen Hunt: Jack Grealish needs to study what Stephen Ireland did - and do the opposite

Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

If you were to chart a plan for a young player to make a good impression with senior international players, you wouldn’t exactly go about it as Jack Grealish is going about it.

Grealish’s intentions regarding Ireland remain a little unclear but if he does finally end up in a senior squad I would give him one bit of advice: study what Stephen Ireland did and do the opposite.

Stephen Ireland wasn’t unpopular when he was in the Ireland squad but when he left it and the stories swirled around about why he might have left, it became tiresome and as far as the players in the squad were concerned, so did he.

Grealish is far from this stage. He’s had his exile before he has actually become a squad member but there is a danger that it would be difficult if that process goes on much longer.

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Footballers are professionals and they’ll welcome people who will improve the team but they want to be certain the player will improve the team. Often there’s a big difference between what a player thinks he is and what he really is.

'My advice would be to study what Stephen Ireland did and do the opposite'
'My advice would be to study what Stephen Ireland did and do the opposite'

Grealish appears to have made his intentions clear now so hopefully there won’t be any more to the saga. When Stephen Ireland used to give vague answers to questions about returning for his country and it became a story, it would anger players in the squad. He wasn’t as good as he thought he was and players felt it was disrespectful.

If Stephen Ireland had been Xavi or Iniesta, they might have put up with it because they’d know that he would improve the squad but, then again, you wouldn’t have seen Xavi or Iniesta behaving like that.

I don’t think everything that has happened with Grealish is entirely his fault. I think the FAI have been too eager to cap players in order to stop them playing for other countries and Grealish may well be in demand, although maybe not as in demand as he would have expected at the start of the season.

I agree with Martin O’Neill’s comments in today’s paper and I think it’s a good sign that he isn’t planning to bring him into a squad before he’s ready. It is good for the other players too. Getting into an Ireland squad has to mean something. It’s no good if it’s just a political game with other associations.

I’ve seen this before. I remember when Sean Scannell was called into the Irish squad while he was a teenager at Crystal Palace.

I always felt Sean was a little embarrassed to be in the Ireland squad. He was born in London so perhaps there was an attempt to integrate him but it didn’t help the player because he wasn’t ready. I’ve played against him this season, however, and he would fit into the squad now easily.

This is the problem with Grealish. He hasn’t played as often as he thought he would this season. He’s made two league starts and while they have come since Tim Sherwood arrived, which will encourage him, I don’t know if it’s enough to be getting too carried away.

If he does well today, there will be more excitement and that’s a good thing. He’s a good player and he has a bit of a swagger which suggests he thinks he’s a good player too. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s how you go about it, how you swagger if you like.

We have a player at Ipswich, Teddy Bishop, and he had a swagger when he joined the first team but since then, he hasn’t been conceited at all.

Grealish certainly has the talent but there have been players who have always certainly had the talent and it wasn’t enough.

I was in Ireland under 21 squads with Richie Partridge who everybody expected to be the next big thing. Richie was a great lad but he was also seen as a superstar because he played for Liverpool.

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When I was 13, I knew who Richie Partridge was. We were playing a Dublin side in the Kennedy Cup and Partridge was the player everyone had come to see. John O’Shea and Partridge were the two players everybody talked about.

I assumed Richie would be an arrogant Dub but he’s a lovely guy even if there was huge expectation around him. Because he was a Liverpool player, because he was fast and a tricky winger, everyone wanted to see him. Who knows what would have happened to Richie if it hadn’t been for injuries? The game is full of stories like his.

The way O’Neill is handling Grealish at this stage is the best thing for him. He is not desperately bringing him to a squad the minute Grealish hints that’s he’s available. That is good for the squad and good for Grealish too. If he understands that, he might have a chance of becoming the player he thinks he is.

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