Undecided Jack Grealish to park decision on Ireland

Aston Villa winger unlikely to make call on international future until next summer

Having acceded to Jack Grealish's request to sideline his international future, Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill will unlikely be able to call upon the Aston Villa winger, if at all, until next summer.

Grealish, who turned 19 yesterday, is due to feature for the third time in a Premier League game this season when Villa travel to Liverpool on Saturday evening and the clamour for his services is not confined to the international sphere.

With confirmation arriving yesterday of Chelsea's interest in the winger, he's admitted his priority is resolving his club predicament before the dilemma of whether to stick with Ireland. He has represented Ireland all the way up at underage level, but could defect to his homeland of England. Under Fifa's eligibility rules, Grealish is only permitted one change of nationality.

Although such a pursuit isn’t the norm for a teenager with just three brief substitute top-flight appearances to his name, the feeling exists cross-channel that Grealish’s emergence marks the breakthrough point of a teenage talent long ago touted for greatness.


O'Neill has claimed since meeting Grealish and his father Kevin on August 20th in Birmingham that he's prepared to adopt a softy-softly approach to this case, compared to the one of older and vastly more experienced Mark Noble.

Based upon the player’s comments, the Derry man looks like he’ll be writing off the youngster’s involvement in the first half of the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.

“As my contract with Villa finishes at the end of the season, my concentration is on sorting that out first,” said Grealish. “Martin didn’t put me under pressure to make a decision on my international situation.

Career decision “My father and I didn’t want to go into the meeting and Martin being like, ‘come on and play for Ireland’. He sat me down, treated me like a man and talked through everything.

“It wasn’t just about football but growing up as a footballer and where my grandparents are from in Ireland. That’s what I wanted to hear from Martin because it is a big decision to make and one I want to take my time over.

“Things have just happened very quickly for me this season and I need to put on my club future first before thinking about the international situation.”

While that stance may be okay with O’Neill, Grealish discovered during a recent Premier League game that not all fellow Irish men are equally understanding.

He was only 15 minutes on the pitch against Hull City last Sunday week, yet drew enough robust tackles for three of his opponents, including Ireland international Stephen Quinn, to earn bookings.

“He called me a fake Paddy,” revealed Grealish about Quinn with a laugh. “That’s what I have to expect though now. Football banter can be like that and I’m not a kid anymore.”

Roy Keane’s dual role as assistant manager for Ireland and Villa has been cited as a factor in O’Neill’s favour and the fondness with which Grealish speaks of the Cork man did little to dampen that as a plus.

“I feared that I wouldn’t be the type of player Roy liked but he’s a brilliant influence on me and I put much of my success at Villa this season down to him,” said Grealish.

Keane taking session “He takes a lot of the training session and has a calm nature about him. On the first day of training, I didn’t start the session that well and he tapped me on the shoulder after a half an hour.

He said: “Are you all right?” And I replied, “yeah”. And then he asked me: “When do you start training then?”

“I wondered was he being a little bit serious, but it was just banter. He’s flooded me with confidence in every training session.”

Given Keane’s history of falling out with players, O’Neill can only hope that the rapport between Grealish and his assistant flourishes rather than fades.