Kevin Grealish, father of Jack Grealish, has denied reports his son has opted to declare for England instead of Ireland.
The Aston Villa starlet vowed to settle his international dilemma before next month’s pair of concluding Euro qualifiers but suggestions the choice has been made in recent days have been branded premature.
“There is nothing in that report whatsoever,” insisted Kevin Grealish. “No decision has been made by Jack yet. He hasn’t even played much football this season because of injuries.”
Birmingham-born Grealish, who turned 20 yesterday, has only represented Ireland but faces what his father describes as the “biggest decision of his football career”.
England manager Roy Hodgson recently met the player, his father and his agent David Manasseh and made an assurance Grealish would be afforded opportunities to break into the senior squad if he opted to switch allegiance.
Unlike his Ireland counterpart Martin O’Neill, who also held talks with the three-man delegation, Hodgson could table the incentive of an avenue being available into the panel in time for next year’s Euro 2016 finals in France.
Ireland’s prospects of joining the Auld Enemy at the expanded 24-team showpiece increased significantly in the past week as a play-off route came into sight with just two ties remaining.
When O’Neill sat down with Grealish for discussions he described as “fruitful”, the offer of an immediate place in his squad was made, a revelation the Ireland boss later admitted publicly.
Whilst the Villa winger could conceivably make his England debut in one of the dead-rubber qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania in October, there is also the possibility of action in Ireland’s crucial ties against Germany and Poland during the same week.
Once the player sets foot on the pitch for a minute of a competitive match at senior level, then Grealish is tied to that country for the rest of his career.
The patience of Hodgson appeared to receding this week when he urged Grealish to bring the tug-of-war to an end, saying he “wasn’t 100% sure what he (Grealish) is waiting for”. O’Neill remarked following Monday’s win over Georgia that Hodgson was exerting pressure on the player.
Grealish’s club manager, Tim Sherwood, yesterday emphasised that he will be taking a hands-off role in the process of deciding which country his young star plays for at senior level.
“I’ve spoken to Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill, Jack Grealish and his father,” explained Sherwood yesterday.
“I have said it is not my decision to make, it is up to those three parties to fight it out, leave me out of it.
“He hasn’t told me. I can’t tell him. In his heart of hearts he has to decide whether he is English or Irish. He has to decide.” Concern has also been raised in recent days about the influence, or otherwise of Grealish’s representatives.
Jonathan Barnett, chairman of the Stellar Agency successful in recruiting Grealish last year, explained that he’d tried to convince his highest-profile client, Gareth Bale, to declare for England over his homeland of Wales.
Worryingly, Barnett pointed out that the decision has cost his client “millions of pounds”. The Grealish family insist, however, this predicament will not be swayed by any monetary factors.
Meanwhile, it’s understood the FAI are close to sealing the allegiance of highly-rated Arsenal teen Danny Crowley. The 18-year-old, currently impressing on loan at League One outfit Barnsley, is in a similar conundrum to his former Villa colleague Grealish, in that he is eligible for both England and Ireland and is wanted by each.
The classy midfielder has represented England at U19 level but is believed to be close on switching to Noel King’s Ireland U21 squad for the rest of their Euro qualification campaign.
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