England camp 'keeping eye on Grealish'

England camp 'keeping eye on Grealish'

Gareth Southgate has revealed England have not given up hope of tempting Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish away from the Republic of Ireland.

The England Under-21 head coach remains keen for the midfielder to leave Ireland for the Three Lions.

Birmingham-born Grealish is preparing for Ireland Under-21s' friendly in Norway on Thursday and last week Ryanair offered free flights to his family for the 19-year-old's senior debut, should it happen

He has been playing for Ireland since he was 14 but is yet to decide on his senior future and Southgate hopes it is with England.

"The family and Jack are aware of our interest," he said, ahead of Friday's Euro 2015 play-off with Croatia at Molineux.

"Jack is somebody we have spoken to over the years, him and his family. He has been in our younger development teams.

"Up to this point they have preferred to remain with Ireland. These things are quite fluid at younger ages, it happened with Michael Keane and his brother (Will) and Jonathan Bond came from Wales.

"Lots of other home nations are running development camps at a young age so players develop an allegiance quite young.

"You are allowed to switch once when you are a young player and Jack is someone we are monitoring and we'll keep our eye on that situation."

Ireland number two Roy Keane is assistant manager at Villa Park and national boss Martin O'Neill made a personal check on Grealish in Villa's development squad's 3-0 win over Bolton last week.

Grealish, who is in talks with the club over a new contract after breaking into the first team, qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents.

Southgate will not put any pressure on the Villa academy graduate, though, insisting it is up to him to decide his future.

He said: "I haven't spoken to him personally but certainly people from our organisation have kept in contact. We have been monitoring him but in the end it's up to the player.

"He's going to make his decision on where he wants to go. More and more, because of the nature of society, there are several players in our system who are duel nationality and had that choice to make."

Meanwhile, former England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce believes Southgate should get the pick of the talent for the games with Croatia.

They play the return leg in Vinkovci on October 14 and current Nottingham Forest manager Pearce believes it should be a priority over the senior squad.

He said: "If it was me and I was in charge of the senior side, I would turn round to the Under-21 boss and say 'you pick everyone age appropriate you want; we're playing San Marino and Estonia, and we have also beaten Switzerland away. I will take anyone you don't want after that'. That's what I would do for the personal development for the country.

"I really wish them well next week. Gareth's a really good friend of mine. I'm a patriot of this country and I'm desperate for England to do well."

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