Friday 23 March 2018

Jack Grealish commits to promise to be back in a green jersey by September

In-demand teen Jack Grealish has eye on Ireland U-21 comeback in September
In-demand teen Jack Grealish has eye on Ireland U-21 comeback in September

John Fallon

Jack Grealish's father has confirmed that his son still plans a return to the Ireland set-up in September - but it could be for the U-21s rather than Martin O'Neill's seniors.

Talk of the Aston Villa playmaker defecting to England has intensified since he shone in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool, with the Football Association said to be keen on fast-tracking the 19-year-old into their set-up.

Fears of that scenario unfolding any time soon were allayed last night, however, when Kevin Grealish insisted his son had not deviated from the plan he outlined four weeks ago upon receiving his FAI U-21 Player of the Year award.

That night at the RTÉ studios, Grealish vowed to end the year-long sabbatical he had agreed with Ireland U-21 boss Noel King for the set of fixtures in September.

"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.

"It must be remembered that Jack only recently broke into the Villa first-team, so his sole focus is on keeping his place, helping the club avoid relegation and hopefully playing in the FA Cup final on May 30."

In contrast to remarks made in jest on Talksport about his son playing 45 minutes each for Ireland and England in the friendly on June 7, Grealish Snr insisted there would be no return to international duty until September.

That the youngster appears to be in favour returning to the U-21s for their UEFA qualifier in Andorra on September 8, and not the seniors, could suit O'Neill after the Ireland manager last week cast doubt on Grealish's readiness for full-blooded qualifiers.

Still, the downside of adopting this approach is that the player would still be eligible to defect to England at senior level down the line.

With Grealish discussion featuring prominently on the airwaves across the water, Villa boss Tim Sherwood tackled the belief that he is keen to see the young midfielder declaring for his native England by adopting a liberal stance.

"It's up to Jack where he wants to go, purely up to him," said Sherwood, who initially waded into this debate a month ago by predicting that Grealish would opt for the Three Lions.

"What I have got to do is make sure he has got that decision to make. He must be doing something right for Aston Villa if he's got those options. That is my priority. Then it's up to Jack to decide where he wants to go. I had the same situation with Nabil Bentaleb, who could have played for France but decided to pick Algeria.

"I did have a chat with him and he asked me what to do. I just said, 'you've got to go with your heart. Do you think you're French or Algerian?'."

"That's the decision he had to make and now Jack has got to make that decision. He has to play a few more times for Aston Villa before he needs to make that decision," added Sherwood.

Meanwhile, the FAI have been given reason for encouragement in their pursuit of Patrick Bamford after the highly rated striker said that he could still end up wearing the green jersey at senior level.

The Chelsea attacker, who has been named Championship player of the season on the strength of his excellent loan performances at Middlesbrough, has stated that he grew up with the aim of representing England.

Bamford has a strong Irish connection on his mother's side, though, and made one appearance at U-18 level before accepting an invitation into the English set-up, where he has been involved in Gareth Southgate's U-21 squad.

Noel King unsuccessfully attempted to get him back on board, while O'Neill has said that he would be very keen to have a player like Bamford in his squad and hinted that he'd feature on a regular basis if he did switch.

"My mum's side is Irish and my dad's side is English so it was a tough decision," said Bamford yesterday when chatting about the decision he made at underage level.

"Being English, it was always my dream to play for England but I am not going to rule out either option."

Bamford's profile would soar if he was given an opportunity by Jose Mourinho, and he expects clarity on his future in the summer.

"Ever since I signed for Chelsea, It has been my dream," he said, Depending on what happens at Boro, it'll be a discussion we have when the season is over."

Irish Independent

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