Jack Grealish opens up on his decision to turn his back on Ireland
Aston Villa star Jack Grealish has revealed he was shocked by the tidal wave of abuse that came his way after he turned his back on the Republic of Ireland to commit his international future to England.
Grealish switched international allegiances at a time when he was emerging as a star in the Villa team, with the English FA making it clear that they wanted him to play for them in the build-up to this summer’s Euro 2016 finals.
It meant Grealish walked away from a career with Ireland, despite the efforts of manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane to sway his decision in another direction.
Now Grealish has spoken about the reasons why he decided he wanted to play for England, even though his international dream appears to be further away than ever as he prepares to start life in the Championship with Aston Villa.
“It was a big decision and wasn’t easy for me,” says Grealish in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
“I thought about it for a long time, spoke with my family and my agent, but in the end it came from me.
“I didn’t think it was going to be so big, I didn’t expect so much abuse from Ireland fans. I was still getting it during the Euro’s.
“But for my career I think if I fulfil my ability I feel I can play for England in years to come. I was born here, as were my parents, so I felt more English than Irish.
“I played for England at the Toulon Tournament and that was a great experience. I didn’t really have a winning feeling last season so to play four of the five games, and score twice, ended it on a good note.
“A cap for the under-21s is the next target. There’s a qualifier in September and I want to try and be involved in that.”
Grealish (20) also accepted he has made too may high profile mistakes in his young career, with his parting reputation doing little to enhance his unfulfilled talents.
“We all make mistakes when we’re young but you won’t be seeing me do any of that again,” he added.
“I felt like a kid last summer and in February last year, before Tim Sherwood came in, nobody would have known who I was. I didn’t realise what the attention would be like, I just thought I’d go on holiday like all young lads do.
“I look back on it now and as a professional footballer you can’t do that sort of thing. We’re supposed to be role models for kids.”