Jason McAteer: 'Knowing Mick as I do, it wouldn’t surprise me if Declan Rice decided to represent Ireland now'
Ex-Ireland international, Jason McAteer believes that Declan Rice could become the main man for a Mick McCarthy led Ireland should the West Ham player return to the international fold.
Speaking exclusively to bookmaker comparison platform Bookmakers.tv, the former Liverpool midfielder said: "Knowing Mick as I do, it wouldn’t surprise me if Declan Rice decided to represent Ireland now.
"However, the way they’re moving, Declan possibly thinks England. Gareth Southgate is doing a really good job and he might want to be a part of that. England have a better chance of winning a World Cup.
“But I don’t think he’d play a great deal of football for England. There are four of five midfielders that maybe come before him.
"For Ireland, he’d be a key player. He could be a star for us."
The 47-year old can relate to the dilema Rice finds himself in having been the subject of a similar tug of war as a young player. But he has no regrets about the choice he made.
"I was asked to play for England, but I wanted to play for the Republic of Ireland," he continued.
"I chose to play for them and it turns out the 12 years I played for Ireland were the best ever. Two World Cups and I loved every minute of it."
McAteer became one of McCarthy’s most trusted players during his previous spell in charge, famously scoring away to Holland in the World Cup 2002 qualifiers before repeating the feat a year later at Lansdowne Road as an Irish victory eliminated the Dutch.
And while he thinks rebuilding confidence after what was a demoralising year for the team won’t be easy, he’s backing his old boss to bring a different approach to his predecessor.
"Martin O’Neill had become particularly negative in his approach to games. There was no guile or creativity on the pitch," he added.
"It was defend, defend, defend and we’ll try and nick it but that’s very difficult when you don’t have the players on the pitch to create that bit of magic.
"It’s going to be a tough job for Mick McCarthy but he’s a different type of manager to Martin and Roy (Keane). He’s very much a man manager and he’ll breed a team spirit."
And McAteer believes if that team spirit can attract the likes of Rice back, that could open the door for other dual-qualified players to come on board.
"The big job Mick has got is attracting the English-born players to play for the Republic of Ireland. Trying to bring the likes of Rice in. Other players will look at that and go 'Yeah, that’s where I want to go'."
‘Jason McAteer, speaking exclusively for bookmaker comparison platform Bookmakers.tv