Jack Grealish’s decision to switch allegiance to England is based solely on personal rather than commercial reasons, according to his father.
The 20-year-old Aston Villa attacker finally ended the mystery over his international future yesterday by pledging his allegiance to his homeland.
Revealing the decision to defect from Ireland was only settled on in recent days, Grealish’s father was adamant no external parties influenced the outcome.
“Jack had a lot of thinking to do after meeting both Martin O’Neill and Roy Hodgson during the summer,” explained Kevin Grealish last night.
“It wasn’t myself, his agent or his Aston Villa manager, Tim Sherwood, who made this decision.
“We all gave Jack the time and space to choose for himself and we’ll support him in his decision.
“Twice in the past, Jack turned down the chance of switching to England at underage level. But he was only a kid then and we agreed together that staying with Ireland was the best decision in both cases.
“This situation was completely different. Jack is now 20 and should be making his own decisions, especially as it impacts on the rest of his career.”
“Grealish Sr said Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, while disappointed with the outcome, respected the desire of the Premier League player to jump ship.
“Martin was the first person I phoned yesterday morning,” he said. “Martin wished Jack all the best in his future career. So did Noel King and Mark O’Toole, two of the FAI staff whom Jack has enjoyed working with over the past five years.
“There had been a lot of outside pressure for Jack to make his decision. Everywhere we went as a family, people were asking whether he’d stick with Ireland or switch to England.
“As I said to Martin, we don’t have a crystal ball. Nobody knows how Jack’s career will pan out but he’s enjoying his football at the moment with Villa and feels he can challenge for a place in the England squad.” Amid mounting speculation of an imminent decision on Grealish’s future, Aston Villa confirmed the news at lunchtime yesterday.
This was swiftly followed by a tweet from the player himself, which read: “I have decided to give my allegiance to England. It was not an easy decision as Ireland has a special place with me through my family.
“However, I have decided to represent my country of birth.”
Although the saga has ended, the paperwork to facilitate the switchover will not be processed in time for Grealish to make his England senior debut against either Estonia or Latvia next month.
Instead, it is expected he will feature in a friendly against European champions Spain on 13 November in Alicante, affording him the opportunity of pressing his claims for inclusion in their squad for next summer’s Euros in France.
The FAI confirmed that O’Neill will not be commenting on this development until he addresses the media next Monday on the first day of the build-up to Ireland’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Germany three days later.
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