Jack Grealish intends to play for Ireland U21s in September says his father
Kevin Grealish: 'Jack will ultimately make the decision on his international future, but nothing has changed since he made that statement last month'
Liverpool’s Emre Can chases Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish during the FA Cup semi-final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley stadium in London on Sunday. Photograph: Ben Stansall/Getty Images
Kevin Grealish, father of Republic of Ireland under-21 international winger Jack, has quelled concerns that his son might defect to England by confirming his international plan remains unchanged in light of Sunday’s masterclass for Aston Villa.
Talk of Birmingham-born Grealish switching allegiance began last August when an invitation from Ireland senior manager Martin O’Neill to train with the squad was declined.
The performance of the 19-year-old during Villa’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool, in only his fifth start for the club, intensified that speculation.
Amid the ongoing tug-of-war, however, the player’s father has reaffirmed his son’s intention to resume his international career with Ireland in September.
This was the message conveyed by the player upon receiving his FAI under-21 Player-of-the-Year award in Dublin just four weeks ago. He revealed that an agreement has been struck with under-21 manager Noel King to allow him to take a year out of the international set-up to concentrate on securing a new contract and first-team place at club level.
“Jack will ultimately make the decision on his international future, but nothing has changed since he made that statement last month,” his father said.
Confirming there’s been no contact from England manager Roy Hodgson or his representatives since Jack caught the imagination of his homeland’s public on Sunday, Grealish senior said involvement in Ireland’s senior matches against England and Scotland in June was a non-runner even if O’Neill had a change of heart by deeming the teen ready for the step-up.
In fact, it seems probable Grealish will make his comeback in an Ireland jersey at under-21 level in their Uefa Championship qualifier away to Andorra on September 8th.
Manager Tim Sherwood has urged Grealish to focus on Aston Villa before making a decision on his international future.
He said: “It’s up to Jack where he wants to go. What I’ve got to do is make sure he’s got that decision to make. He must be doing something right for Aston Villa if he’s got those options. That’s my priority.
“Then it’s up to Jack to decide where he wants to go. I had the same situation with Nabil Bentaleb, who could have played for France but decided to pick Algeria. I did have a chat with him and he asked me what to do. I just said, ‘you’ve got to go with your heart. Do you think you’re French or Algerian?’
“That’s the decision he had to make and now Jack has got to make that decision.”
Sherwood handed Grealish his first league start in the 3-3 draw with QPR this month and the ex-Spurs boss insists he is not fazed by the responsibility. “When some kids come and play with the first team, sometimes they’re a bit overawed, but Jack’s not,” he said.