'I felt really, really English' - Michael Keane admits he used Ireland as a stepping stone for England call-up
Everton defender Michael Keane has hinted he viewed playing international football for the Republic of Ireland as a stepping stone in his efforts to win international honours with England.
Keane played in the Irish junior set-ups as he emerged through the ranks at Manchester United, before switching his allegiances to England and making a full debut for the country of his birth against Germany in March 2017.
Speaking to the BBC, Keane was asked to give his views on Declan Rice's decision to switch his international allegiances from Ireland to England, as he suggested he was only wearing a green shirt at international level in the hope that England honours would come his way at a later date.
"When I was with Ireland, I wasn't good enough to play for England at that time," stated the defender who played for Ireland at under-17 and under-19 level.
"I was only young and small and still developing. I had in the back of my head that hopefully one day I could play for England.
"I know when I switched I felt really, really English. My Dad is Irish, but I don't know any of his Irish family, so I've never really felt fully Irish. That was the reason behind my choice."
He went on to express his sympathy for Rice, who spent several months agonising over his decision to switch his allegiances from Ireland to England before confirming he wanted to play for Gareth Southgate's side last month.
"I've got some sympathy for him. It was not an easy decision for me at the time and I can imagine it's harder for him,” he added.
"You've got to go with your instincts and where you feel like you belong. You have to go with where you think you could end up in your career. Declan has made his decision now and we are happy that he is here. Hopefully people now let him display his talents on the football pitch."
Keane's comments will add to the debate over dual nationality players, with his suggestion that 'felt really English' likely to add to the discussion that has raged since Rice made his switch to England.
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