Monday 11 December 2017

Jack Grealish to get Ireland call for England clash

O'Neill wants Aston Villa ace to play against England in Aviva

Jack Grealish is congratulated by his team-mates after setting up Tom Cleverley for the winner during his man-of-the-match performanace against West Ham at Villa Park
Jack Grealish is congratulated by his team-mates after setting up Tom Cleverley for the winner during his man-of-the-match performanace against West Ham at Villa Park

Luke Edwards

Martin O'Neill is expected to turn up the heat on Jack Grealish by calling him into the Ireland squad for next month's friendly with England.

The Ireland manager, who names his panel today, is preparing to make the first move in the campaign to get the Aston Villa player to decide on his international future.

Grealish has been courted by O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane for months and they are hopeful that the teenager will choose to play for Ireland rather than England as he has played all of his age-group football in green.

The Aston Villa ace has previously indicated via his father Kevin that he will delay his final decision on his international career until the start of next season.

The teenager rejected an invitation to train with the senior Ireland squad earlier this season, but this would be a far more significant offer as he will also be promised game-time at the end of a week's training camp.

It would be a clever move by O'Neill as it would put the ball firmly in Grealish's court and help avoid constant questions about the teenager.

If the call-up is rejected, it will have to be done in public and O'Neill will argue that he could not have done any more to persuade the 19-year-old to choose Ireland.

Birmingham-born Grealish, who has shone for Villa under new manager Tim Sherwood, said in March that he was looking forward "to pulling on the green jersey again" after taking a sabbatical from international football to concentrate on his club career.

However, O'Neill has still not been given a clear answer on whether he intends to play for Ireland or England, and there are fears he was just saying what people wanted to hear as he had just been named Ireland's U-21 player of the year.

England U-21 manager Gareth Southgate has spoken to Grealish, but the midfielder is not likely to receive a senior call up from Roy Hodgson this summer.

Although next month's match in Dublin is only a friendly and would mean Grealish could still decide to play for England at a later date, it would be controversial for him to play for Ireland against them and then change his mind.

However, O'Neill is expected to tell the player and his advisors that he will not be forced to play in the European Championship qualifier against Scotland on June 13 if he still wants to keep his options open.

Players cannot switch national allegiances if they have played in a competitive fixture.


The Grealish issue will be top of the agenda today as O'Neill's squad announcements have typically been devoid of major talking points because of his preference for naming larger panels that are cut down closer to the first day of duty.

It's not as straightforward for this pair of fixtures, however, as a number of his Championship options are already on a summer break following their last regular league game of the season on May 2 and need to know where they stand.

The final group are due to report in or around June 1 ahead of the closed-doors fixture with Northern Ireland on June 4 and then the friendly with England on June 7.

But the whole gathering will be defined by the outcome of the Scottish showdown in the Aviva on June 13.

Grealish's Villa colleague Ciaran Clark is on the easy list after being ruled out of the FA Cup final by Sherwood and Darron Gibson's club campaign at Everton is also over after a litany of problems.

In terms of likely starters, O'Neill's main worry surrounds his record goalscorer Robbie Keane, with the LA Galaxy veteran unavailable since last month with a groin strain.

He is targeting a return next weekend. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport