Thursday 27 June 2019

'Declan Rice is having a bit of trouble now because his head is all over the place'

Declan Rice and (inset) UNder 21 team-mate Curtis Byrne
Declan Rice and (inset) UNder 21 team-mate Curtis Byrne
Martin O'Neill satisfied with Ireland's display against Denmark. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill is expected to confirm this morning that Declan Rice wants more time to consider his international future amid reports that England are confident they will eventually get their man.

The 19-year-old turned down a call for last month's UEFA Nations League loss in Wales after an approach from England. There was some confidence in the Irish camp around the September international window that Rice would opt to stay put and continue in green but that belief has been dented.

He is not eligible for a call-up from Gareth Southgate until he goes through an international transfer via FIFA, which is a process that can take anything from three to six months.

O'Neill said initially that he would want a final decision from Rice ahead of the start of the European Championship campaign proper next March and it's plausible that the teenager might wait until the end of the year to confirm his intentions - with a contract dispute with West Ham adding another complication to his situation.

Difficult

Rice's Irish U-21 team-mate Ronan Curtis says that Rice is in a difficult position and there should be an understanding of that.

"He's a young lad and hopefully he makes the right decision and goes with his heart," said Curtis, speaking on the LOI Weekly Podcast.

"He's a great player and hopefully he does come back to us," continued the in-form Portsmouth attacker who is anxious for another call from O'Neill after being brought in for last month's senior friendly in Poland.

"Declan is a young bloke playing in the Premier League week in and week out for West Ham and he's having a bit of trouble now because his head is all over the place. Hopefully he knows what he wants to do and comes back to us."

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Ireland U-19 manager Tom Mohan worked with Rice in his early days in green and remains "hopeful" the player will stay on board. Mohan said yesterday that Rice had turned down advances from England while he was involved in age-group sides and always felt he was committed.

"He was first-class," said Mohan. "A brilliant young fella, a great attitude, a brilliant trainer. He gave everything and was totally committed. Declan could have moved to England at various stages when he was younger but he stayed. Football throws up shocks; nothing really surprises you. Declan's gone nowhere yet."

The FAI are unhappy with persistent claims that a factor in Rice's reticence to commit to Ireland was Roy Keane's row with Harry Arter that has led to the Cardiff midfielder stepping away from international duty.

Address

O'Neill angrily denied reports that Keane had rowed with Rice but is likely to have to address it again today at his provisional squad announcement for the Dublin double-header with Denmark (Saturday, October 13) and Wales (Tuesday, October 16).

He had suggested that Keane was open to reconciliation talks with Arter, but it's understood that no such discussions have taken place and Arter will remain in exile.

The leaked WhatsApp audio from Stephen Ward poured fuel on the flames and his position is a talking point as his only appearance for Burnley since the drubbing in Wales was in a League Cup game.

O'Neill faces a nervous couple of days as he needs some key performers - most notably Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady - to return for their clubs over the weekend to enhance the likelihood of their availability for Irish duty.

Shane Long is on the sidelines at Southampton, while James McCarthy and Seán Maguire are still working their way back towards fitness at Everton and Preston respectively. David Meyler is also struggling with an injury that has ruled him out of action with Reading.

On the plus side, James McClean made his Stoke return on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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