Friday 20 April 2018

How the grealish saga unfolded

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish
Aston Villa's Jack Grealish

John Fallon

MAY 2010

14-year-old Birmingham-born Jack Grealish, eligible through grandparents from Donegal, Kerry and Dublin, arrives on the scene with his international debut in Ireland U-15s' 5-0 thrashing of Northern Ireland in Kilternan.

MARCH 2012

Ahead of Ireland's U-17 UEFA qualifiers, Grealish said: "I've really enjoyed my first couple of seasons at international level. We could probably put out a full Irish XI at Aston Villa as there are enough of us in the youth, reserve and first teams."


Despite a second offer from the English FA to switch, Grealish remains on board and makes his U-21 debut against Faroe Islands as a late substitute.

"I made up my mind a few months ago that Ireland was the best for me and I'm happy with the decision," he said. "This was the first time in over a year that I'd pulled on the Irish jersey and it feels good. It's a proud day for my family and me."

MARCH 2014

A clamour for Grealish's elevation to the senior fold for the summer trip to the United States develops after his man-of-the-match performance in Dublin for Ireland's U-21s against Montenegro and a strong season on loan for Notts County.

"It was very flattering to hear Martin O'Neill speak about me recently and that's a sign that I am doing something right," he said. "I would love to play for the senior Ireland team and with all the games they have lined up for the summer, it could happen."


As Grealish starts to appear in the Villa side under Paul Lambert and Roy Keane, he politely declines an offer from O'Neill to train with the full squad ahead of friendly against Oman. Still, he lines out for the U-21s against Germany.

"When my dad and I met Martin O'Neill recently, he didn't put me under pressure to make a decision on my international situation. That's what I wanted to hear from him because it is a big decision to make and one I want to take my time over.

"Martin made me feel really welcome and treated me like a man.

"We didn't want to go into the meeting and Martin being like 'come on and play for Ireland'. My priority is to break into the Aston Villa team."

MARCH 2015

Grealish's displays in his two starts during Ireland's UEFA U-21 campaign net him the FAI's Player of the Year award.

"It's always a joy to come over and put the green jersey on," he said. "I spoke to Noel King at the start of the year and I said this year I'm going to take a year out to concentrate on my club football. I've signed a new five-year contract and had a good year so hopefully I'll be back in the green jersey in September."

APRIL 2015:

England once again register their interest following Grealish's masterclass in the surprise FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool at Wembley.

"Jack will ultimately make the decision on his international future but nothing has changed for him since he made that statement last month," said his father Kevin.

MAY 2015:

O'Neill reverses an earlier opinion of Grealish's readiness for a senior call-up by attempting to include him the squad for the friendly against his homeland on June 7.

"We appreciated the call from Martin yesterday but there was no way Jack was going to accept," explained his father Kevin.

"I reiterated to him that we told (U-21 manager) Noel King that Jack was taking the year out to concentrate on Aston Villa.

"Villa are still not safe from relegation, so all of Jack's focus is on the final three Premier League games and then the FA Cup final on May 30.

"Nothing can distract Jack from keeping his place at Villa. Had he taken up Martin's offer, the level of attention and pressure on him at this late stage of the season would have been enormous."

AUGUST 2015:

With a decision looming, both O'Neill and England manager Roy Hodgson make their pitch to the player in the presence of his father and agent David Manasseh.

O'Neill describes his discussions as fruitful, insisting Grealish was worth the wait while Hodgson urges the tyro to make up his mind. "The decision will be made by the end of next month," said his father Kevin.


Grealish pledges his international allegiance to England. "I have decided to give my allegiance to England," said Grealish.

"It was not an easy decision as Ireland has a special place with me through my family. However, I have decided to represent my country of birth."

Irish Independent

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