Shay Given has welcomed Aston Villa team-mate Jack Grealish’s decision to make himself available for the Ireland squad.
Grealish, who qualifies for Ireland through his Dublin-born father, has found himself at the centre of a tug of love between Ireland and England since emerging from the academy ranks at Villa Park as a player of genuine potential.
The Birmingham-born midfielder has kept both countries guessing in recent months, much to the frustration of then Villa and still Republic assistant manager Roy Keane, and informed Under-21s boss Noel King that he was taking a year out of international football to concentrate on his club career.
But the 19-year-old indicated on Sunday evening as he collected the Under-21 Player of the Year prize at the 3-sponsored Football Association of Ireland International Awards ceremony that he will end his self-imposed exile next season, sparking a delighted, if amused, response from Given.
The 38-year-old said: “It’s good news that he’s stopped from taking his year out as well – I’ve never heard that before. He’s turned into a student and taken a gap-year. It’s great he’s decided he has had a nice rest now and he’s going to come back in.
“But it was nice to see his family there last night as well. Hopefully even being there last night and coming across and seeing how much support the nation has for him will make him make the right decision.”
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill refused to put any pressure on Grealish as he considered his options, all the while hoping the youngster would declare for the Republic.
Now it appears his patience has paid off, although it could be some time yet before the player is ready to taste life in the senior squad with Villa boss Tim Sherwood nursing him through a crucial stage of his fledgling career.
Given said: “He’s a class player. He obviously wants to play more time for Villa as well, but he’s still very young and Tim Sherwood is just sort of letting him in gently into the team.
“But I think he has got the right manager who will get the best out of him, and hopefully he has a bright future ahead of him.”