Marcus Tabi’s defection from Ireland to the Auld Enemy highlights the lengths England are going to at underage level to snap up dual-nationality talent.
By parachuting the Arsenal prodigy into their starting team for the U-17 European Championship finals, the FAI might have thought it was enough to keep him onside but something changed in the ensuing months and it may have be down to the recruitment drive embarked upon by the English FA.
The case of Jack Grealish was a game-changer in the ongoing tug-of-war between England and Ireland for gems.
No longer is a youngster born in England be allowed pledge their international allegiance to another country unless all efforts are made to dissuade him from doing so.
England tried and failed twice to entice Grealish onboard in his teens and it was only after Martin O’Neill blew his chance of capping a talent gift-wrapped to him by U-21 manager Noel King that the blunder was seized upon to Ireland's detriment.
FIFA’s eligibility rules allow players to make one switch after they’ve played in a competitive match – usually a UEFA U-17, U-19 or U-21 qualifier – from a country.
All of the five English-born players listed below are still up for grabs having drifted between the rivals without shutting the door on their options as friendlies don’t count.
Here, we provide an update on the status of these in-demand players and rate their chances of one day being finally tied to the Boys in Green.
Anthony Scully (West Ham United):
Son to the former QPR, Crystal Palace and Manchester City player of the same name that represented Ireland up to U-21 level, Anthony is the standout player in this season’s Irish U-17 crop. Currently sidelined with a broken leg, England have made their interest known
Prospects of staying green: High.
Connor Ronan (Wolves):
Vastly-rated at Molineux, the 17-year-old has been in the bench for the first-team already this season. Having played for both England and Ireland in 2015, he is still free to switch.
One can only hope that Ireland’s disappointing exit from the UEFA qualifiers this week at the preliminary stage for the first time since Paul Doolin took charge five years ago doesn’t adversely influence his future.
Prospects of staying green: Good.
Danny Crowley (Arsenal):
Arsenal’s €1m capture from Aston Villa has had Martin O’Neill taking an interest by phoning up to his father to outline his case.
The diminutive playmaker, whose goal for on-loan club Barnsley against Everton in August boosted his profile, is open to representing Ireland again but remains non-committal for now.
Prospects of staying green: Moderate.
Josh Cullen (West Ham United):
The rising star of the Irish underage ranks played for England previously but is now knocking on the door of the Ireland squad following a string of impressive displays for King's U-21s.
Cullen says he wants to honour his late Co Leitrim grandparents by staying loyal to Ireland. And a few more games for the Hammers first-team could make him a wildcard for the Euros.
Prospects of staying green: Good.
Patrick Bamford (Chelsea):
After just one outing for Ireland at U-18 level, the striker has since played all his international football for England without discounting the possibility of returning.
O’Neill has made moves towards recruiting Bamford without receiving positive noises and it seems career ambitions, rather than patriotism, are foremost in his selection criteria.
Prospects of returning to green: Gloomy.
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