Wednesday 21 August 2019

John Brennan: 'Declan Rice decision highlights exactly why international football has become ridiculous'

Declan Rice
Declan Rice

John Brennan

This day has been coming since last August. When Declan Rice’s name was not in Martin O’Neill’s squad for the Nations League game against Wales a few weeks later, the lad’s commitment to playing for Ireland was on the wane.

This afternoon the West Ham starlet brought his Ireland career to an end saying that he was going to declare for the land of his birth and that’s his right.

If you want to blame anyone for him being able to do so blame FIFA and their ridiculous rule that allows a player who has played for a country in a senior friendly change nationhood.

I’ve no difficulty with allowing a lad who might have played for one country at under-age level change his mind. But once you play senior, regardless of the status of the match, that should be that.

It’s a huge blow to Mick McCarthy who has begun his term of office by trying to get the likes of Nathan Redmond and Patrick Bamford to commit to the Boys in Green to deepen his squad.

But Rice was the prize McCarthy coveted, a 20-year-old defender or midfielder who might have been part of Ireland’s football future for the next 15 years.

Yes, he’d surely have won a century of Irish caps, and most likely captained the team too. But if a Londoner wants to play for England, and that’s where Rice is at right now, well who can stop him?

Why, after being content to play for Ireland all the way through the under-age ranks, and winning three caps, did he change? One thing is clear, Rice was a happy Irish footballer until he changed agent 11 months ago.

Declan’s new advisor made it clear to him, and West Ham would have do so too, that if, in say three years’ time when his career has progressed, the player would be worth far more to any suitors as an English international – not an Irish one.

That means a cut of a bigger transfer fee, and a bigger salary too from any Premier League club that sees regular European action and thus needs English-qualified players.

Another matter has always been repeatedly denied by the FAI. But there are many people in Irish football who insist that Rice saw or heard some of the Harry Arter/Jon Walters/Roy Keane bust up of last June when very fruity language was used about two players both born in Britain but thoroughly committed to Ireland’s cause.

Again before the timing of that row, there was no doubt about Rice playing for Ireland. Now he will never play in green again, not even if his career goes nowhere and England don’t want him.

It’ll be September at the earliest before Rice can play for the land of his birth as the lad may not be committed to Ireland, but the FAI does hold his international registration and it takes about six months to do the paperwork that will free Rice from Ireland’s clutches.

By then McCarthy’s Ireland will be right in the running for a place at Euro 2020, or struggling to get past Denmark and Switzerland in the group. England, with a handy group, should be well on the road to qualifying at that stage.

Wouldn’t it be something if Rice was to play for England at the Aviva Stadium at Euro 2020? It could happen, you know and Irish football will be left to wonder about its lost leader.

Online Editors

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