Against the backdrop of recent indications from Declan Rice that a decision on his international future is imminent, Mick McCarthy has revealed he spoke with Gareth Southgate in early December about the player.
The Ireland and England managers met at the FA President’s Dinner in Wembley and McCarthy rang his counterpart the following day.
Explaining the context for the discussion, McCarthy said: “I was speaking to him about a number of things, about the time between the end of the season and training camps, as he has done it more recently than I have, so I had a good chat with him about that.
“I did ask him about Declan. He saw him as a centre-back, probably. I thought because he’s not playing there at the moment he wouldn’t be in front of the ones already in there, plus he’s not been in their youth system and come through like he has with ours.
“That’s been his position through his career but he’s doing well now in that sitting role. I want him playing in the position he is now in at West Ham and see where he develops.”
Expanding on his own subsequent meeting with Rice — and his father Sean and brother Connor — McCarthy said: “I thought it was positive at the time, there were no negative vibes. He was more concerned at the time about getting his contract sorted, that was the big issue, at West Ham. He has done that now, and he did say that once it was sorted he would make a decision sooner than later.
“I said to him that I’m looking to build a team around him from March onwards. Are England? He is getting rave reviews at the minute and I’m speaking to you and saying that this is not going to help our cause, I suppose. But I don’t know if that is the case.”
Robbie Keane accompanied McCarthy at the meeting before Christmas, Ireland’s record scorer a flesh-and-blood advertisement for what can be achieved in the green shirt.
“He brought Robbie,” the manager smiled. “It’s just his presence to be quite honest as much as anything. You see a young kid from Tallaght, what he can achieve playing for Ireland. I mean, I’m at the European draw with Robbie Keane and everybody knows him. We are in the hotel and (Luis) Figo is there and the two of them are chatting away. (Zvonimir) Boban walks in and it’s Robbie he knows. He’s more recent but he’s also more famous. He’s better known because of his ability and the goals that he scored so why would I not take that along with me?”
McCarthy was speaking before last night’s 2018 SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers of Ireland Awards at which Stephen Kenny was named Personality of the Year.
Bohemians’ Shane Supple, who had to retire from the game through injury, was named Goalkeeper of the Year.
Aine O’Gorman received the International Achievement Award after calling time on an Ireland career which saw her win 100 caps.