Roy Hodgson has dismissed Jack Grealish’s Irish connections as “distant” and said the Aston Villa player made the correct decision — and also the “bolder” one — in declaring for England.
Grealish this week ended a protracted will-he-won’t-he saga by committing himself to England’s senior set-up despite Ireland manager Martin O’Neill’s efforts to persuade him to progress his international career with the country he had previously represented, through his grandparentage, up to U21 level.
“I’m very pleased,” said Hodgson yesterday. “I think it is the right decision. “Frankly he is English. Having met him and his father, it is an English family albeit with fairly distant Irish roots.
“I think he has got the talent to be an England player but he has a lot of work to do before that day is concreted. But I was happy that in a choice between the two countries he took the bolder decision to try and be an England international.”
Grealish is not eligible for England’s upcoming European Championship qualification double-header against Estonia and Lithuania because his international clearance won’t have come through in time, while a request for him to train with the squad next week was turned down by Villa manager Tim Sherwood.
But Hodgson was at pains to stress that there will be no fast-tracking into the England set-up for the 20 year old.
“I was keen to point out to him and his father that there are no guarantees from my point of view,” he said. “One thing I can categorically say is that the only way he will get into the England squad is if he is one of the best 23.
“We can’t offer him any sweeteners or bonuses because you have made a decision to play for England.”
But the England manager did acknowledge that Grealish is a player of rich promise.
“Tim (Sherwood) believes he has a big future and, from what little I have seen from him — because he’s been injured — I also think Jack has got a big talent. All he can do now is confirm that talent by playing week after week for Aston Villa — then the world is your oyster.”
Hodgson did call up uncapped duo Dele Alli and Danny Ings, while there were also recalls for fit-again Ryan Bertrand, Phil Jones and Adam Lallana.
On 19-year-old Alli, Hodgson said: “He has only just broken into the Tottenham team but we have been very impressed by what we have seen.
“We are a year away from France so the thinking is it’s a good opportunity for him to come with us, when so many midfield players are missing through injury, that we can get to know him better. Who knows where he will end up? He’s a very exciting talent.”
Ings is one of five forwards in the squad with Hodgson having seen the other four — Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Theo Walcott and captain Wayne Rooney — all score in the Premier League last weekend.
The Liverpool striker has 13 U21 caps and Hodgson is happy to finally have him involved at senior level, adding: “He is someone we followed closely at Burnley last year but we didn’t have a chance to bring him in with us because of the U21 tournament.
“He was an important member of the U21s and we never felt we could rob them to have him with us. Now he is a senior and it is a good opportunity to bring him in — especially now he has been playing at Liverpool and scoring.”
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