John Barnes on why Ireland will regret losing their English-born stream of talent
John Barnes has told Independent.ie the FAI will be spurning a huge opportunity if they continue to miss out in their efforts to attract English-born players to declare for Ireland.
Declan Rice, Liam Kelly and Jack Grealish are among the English-born players who have fallen out of contention for Ireland squad selection in recent years, with Barnes suggesting the lack of talent in Ireland will be a big problem for the international side unless the issue is reversed.
Jamaican-born Barnes speaks from experience on this issue as his loyalty was questioned time and again during his 79-cap England career and he insists that negativity
"The story went that because I wasn't born in England, I was never committed for England when I played for them, but it was total nonsense," said Barnes, as he promoted his new DVD Poetry in Motion.
"People who have not played the game simply cannot understand how much nonsense it is and also they didn't know me as a person and me as a footballer.
"To say that just because I wasn't born in England means I would not be as committed during a game as I would be for Jamaica is nonsense. My commitment was to my team-mates and the identity of whoever I was representing, but this stuck with me. Fans got it into their heads that I was not committed, but I ignored it. Stupid people will never get to me.
"Look at guys like John Aldridge and Jason McAteer and I would say that when they played for Ireland, they were more committed than any player you could wish to see. Back then, no-one questioned their right to wear that green shirt and Ireland would be making a mistake if that attitude changes now.
"I remember Chris Morris, Chris Hughton, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, Jason and Aldo being part of Jack Charlton's team and the fans were 100 per-cent behind them and believed in their commitment.
"If that perception has changed now with some of the English-born players who have declared for Ireland it would be a real shame because from my experience, anyone who plays international football and hears that anthem before the game starts is 100 per-cent committed.
"The English-born players need to be made welcome and Ireland need to keep the door open for them because it has bene a very successful way of getting top quality players into the squad."
Liverpool-born Aldridge has also spoken out on Rice's uncertainty over his international future, as he insisted there was no decision to make when he accepted the offer to link up with the Ireland squad in 1986.
"Jack Charlton came to me at Oxford and said he wanted me in his Ireland team and that was enough for me. I snapped his hands off at that offer," said Aldridge.
"Not for one second did I think about waiting around to see if England would come calling for m because I loved playing for Ireland and loved nothing better than taking on England and beating them at Euro 88.
"It was the biggest honour I my life every time I pulled on that green shirt and I would not swap the memories I had from my time with Ireland for anything in the world."