Wednesday 20 November 2019

Holland: I understand Grealish heel-dragging

Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Matt Holland has sympathy with the dilemma faced by Jack Grealish, but feels the teenager is in danger of breeding resentment in the Irish dressing-room if he drags his heels any further.

From his own experience as an English-born player who only later declared for Ireland, Holland appreciates that Grealish must be torn.

He did say yes with "no hesitation" when Mick McCarthy called but acknowledges that Grealish's circumstances are different, as he appears to have the option of playing for both nations.

"I was a bit older, I was 25," said the former Ipswich and Charlton midfielder, when asked to put himself in Grealish's shoes.

"Jack is a young boy, really. I would probably have done what Jack has done and taken my time with the decision.

"That's sensible from his viewpoint. Maybe he's within his rights to take his time."

Grealish has indicated that he will reveal his choice in September, and Holland thinks it's important that the Aston Villa starlet asserts his intentions before the end of the Euro 2016 campaign.

"We don't know about next summer yet, it's still up in the air in terms of qualification," continued Holland.

"It would be difficult if he hasn't been part of the campaign and then, if we qualify, all of a sudden he declares and gets into the squad. There might be one or two who resent that, so you'd want him involved in one or two of the qualifiers."

This is a delicate subject, especially for Holland, who was called 'as English as David Beckham' in Roy Keane's most recent autobiography.

But the 41-year-old feels that any doubts regarding commitment can be assuaged the minute a convert walks in the door and demonstrates his determination to work hard.

And Holland would have no fears about Grealish being able to make an instant impact if he surprised Martin O'Neill and went green.

"Grealish is such a talent that you'd try and get him in," he said. "He can be top-drawer. He's got ability, there's no doubt about that. I think he needs guidance as there have been problems off the pitch although nothing major.

"He would improve Ireland but it depends on what system is played and how Martin O'Neill wants to play it.

"We've had players of his ability who have found themselves on the sidelines at times because there has not been a role for them. Wes Hoolahan, for instance. Andy Reid was a little bit the same."

Holland, speaking on a visit to Dublin ahead of another season where he will work as a Premier League Central pundit for Setanta, is interested by the progress of Irish newcomer Harry Arter.

He recalls Arter as a confident kid at Charlton who was frustrated by bad luck and a shortage of opportunities that sent him elsewhere in search of a fresh start.

Indeed, he can see parallels with his own story as Holland parted company with West Ham as a kid and made his way back up the ranks - and it was Arter's current employer Bournemouth who gave him the leg up.

"He always believed in his ability," said Holland. "And he has shown a hunger and desire to get back to the top.

"He's somebody that can score goals from midfield and he's a nice addition to Ireland. If I'm being hyper-critical, maybe there's a question-mark over his ability to last 90 minutes.

"It's a shame he's injured at the moment, but he won't have any doubts that he can handle Premier League level."

Irish Independent

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