Mick McCarthy reveals he has held discussions with Gareth Southgate over Declan Rice situation
Mick McCarthy has revealed that he has spoken with his England counterpart Gareth Southgate about Declan Rice's international future.
And he has warned the West Ham player that the English camp still see him as a candidate for central defence - whereas McCarthy has assured Rice that he plans to use him in his preferred central midfield role and build the team around him.
The Ireland manager is waiting on a final answer from the 19-year-old who said this week he was nearing a final call now his contractual situation is resolved. He spoke in the same interview about how he enjoys his sitting midfield brief with the Hammers.
McCarthy accepts the lure of England is strong if the player's main consideration is going with the team that will qualify for more tournaments.
But the Irish camp are still hoping that loyalty will swing things their way, and also the certainty that he will be a major figure for McCarthy's side straight away.
The new Ireland supremo spoke with Southgate early last month to discuss a couple of issues and met Rice before Christmas. He felt the meeting went well but now says he can't do any more.
"I spoke to Gareth and he saw him as a centre-back," said McCarthy last night.
"I thought because he's not playing there at the moment, he wouldn't be in there (England squad) in front of the ones already in there, plus he's not been in their youth system and come through like he was with ours and Gareth Southgate was running theirs for a long time.
"I want him playing in the position he is now at West Ham, for now and see where he develops. I think he saw himself initially as a centre-half but then he is enjoying midfield. I said to him, 'I'm looking to build a team around him from March onwards'. Are England?
"I'd like a decision at some stage. December's gone, we're into January, it will come around pretty quick. But there's no worries with him. It's not like we have to change him over from one to the other. I thought it (chat) was positive at the time. He was more concerned at the time with getting his contract sorted out. That was a big issue."
The 59-year-old has been struck by the player's continued improvement, and says that if he maintains that level then his choice of nation is unlikely to have any impact on his salary or standing in the game. - although he did not feel that the 'pleasant young man' was being influenced by those factors as he mulled his options.
McCarthy was speaking at the SSE Airtricity/SWAI Annual Awards night in Dublin where his anointed successor Stephen Kenny scooped the Personality of the Year gong for his achievements with Dundalk last year.
The recently-retired Shane Supple collected the Goalkeeper of the Year award for his performances with Bohemians.