Sunday 18 February 2018

Grealish pledges his future to Boys in Green

ASTON VILLA wonderkid Jack Grealish is ready to pledge his future to Ireland after accepting an U-21 call-up.

Ireland U-21 boss Noel King revealed in May that the 17-year-old was pondering a switch to England, so he wasn't considered for the friendly against Denmark.

However, the winger, who lined out for Villa's first team last week, has been named in the Ireland squad for the opening U-21 European Championship qualifier against Faroe Islands in Toftir on August 14.

Grealish, with grandparents from Kerry, Galway and Dublin, represented only Ireland since first declaring at 14. He won caps from U-15 to U-19 level and is now set for his U-21 bow.

England have been pursuing the Birmingham native for the past two seasons, even naming him in their U-17 squad in 2011 at the age of 15 – an invitation he declined.

Earning a competitive U-21 cap wouldn't fully prevent him jumping ship to his homeland, yet any switch could only happen at senior level. Villa rate Grealish highly, just one of several Irish gems emerging through the ranks.

He was just 16 when promoted to the first-team bench for the Premier League match against Chelsea in March 2012.

In April of this year, he was also an integral member of Villa's triumphant Next Gen Series squad, a Champions League-style tournament for youth teams, as he scored in the semi-final defeat of Sporting Lisbon.

Wolves striker Liam McAlinden, considered at Molineux as a long-term replacement for Kevin Doyle, is also set to make his Republic debut against Faroes, having defected from Northern Ireland.

Irish Independent

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