Tim Sherwood has revealed that he was involved in discussions with both Martin O’Neill and Jack Grealish about the attempt to call the player into the Irish squad for the games against England and Scotland.
But the Aston Villa manager insists that he has not sought to influence the 19-year-old’s decision about his international future.
Asked yesterday if he’d spoken to the Ireland manager this week, Sherwood replied: “Yes. Fine. I told him what I discussed (with Grealish). He was aware of the situation that Jack is not going to make a decision on international football until after the season.”
Adding that he had not spoken to Roy Keane about the matter and had “no idea” if the former Villa assistant manager had any influence on the situation, Sherwood maintained that, for his part, he was not inclined to interfere one way or another in the decision the 19-year-old has still to make about his dual eligibility status.
“It is totally up to Jack,” said Sherwood. “If Jack decided he wanted to play for Ireland now or England now it is totally up to Jack. The decision was left with him.”
Sherwood also suggested that it would be wrong to interpret Grealish’s refusal to answer Ireland’s call as a definitive snub.
“I don’t think Jack didn’t want to play for Ireland,” he said. “I don’t think he didn’t want to play for England - or Brazil for that matter. That case was he was always going to decide on his international future at the end of this season. He’s got three very important games to take care of for Aston Villa. His concentration is fully on that.
“His international career will be put on hold. Jack hasn’t made his mind up what country he wants to represent. The good news is they all want him. It’s a decision only Jack has to make in a cool, calm situation at the end of this season.”
Sherwood reiterated that Grealish would not be playing any international games in June. “No. He hasn’t made a decision and it’s only Jack and his family who can make that. If he wants guidance from me, unfortunately I can’t give it him. Jack has to know who he wants to represent. It’s not a slant on Ireland, England or anyone. He will make his decision. He’s good enough to play international football but he’s putting that on hold.”
In contrast to Paul Lambert’s somewhat strained relationship with the player – the former Villa boss admitted yesterday that they hadn’t see “eye to eye” - Sherwood had only good things to say about Grealish’s attitude.
“I don’t find him cocky,” he said. “He’s a nice lad. I’ve never had a moment’s problem. He’s the same flash kid that I met when I first walked in here. I mean that in the nicest possible way. He’s very confident, great guy, good kid and wants to improve. That’s what I’ve learned from him. I haven’t had a problem with him.
“He’s a good lad and wants to crack on and play football. He’s got a way to go. He’s getting good assistance from the senior players at the club at the moment. They’re helping him along the way. They want to see him develop. Undoubtedly he has the potential.””
Sherwood added that he has no plans to rest Grealish in Villa’s final two league games – away to Southampton tomorrow and at home to Burnley – before the FA Cup Final against Arsenal on May 30.
“Jack is a man in a kid’s head,” he said. “Have you seen his legs? He doesn’t have a problem with durability.”
Meanwhile, former Villa boss Lambert claimed on Sky Sports yesterday that in his days at Villa Park he saw evidence on one occasion which leads him to think that the Irish U21 cap is hedging his bets about his international ambitions.
“It’s a hard one,” he said. “There was a time when I was there when the Irish U21s were going to call him up and he never wanted to go there with them. Maybe he’s waiting for England? I don’t know, but it’s his choice where he wants to go.”
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