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Tuesday 6 December 2016

John Giles on Jack Grealish: A missed chance to grab a real player

Questions must be raised about Martin O'Neill's judgement on Jack Grealish

Aston Villa rising star Jack Grealish has rejected a first senior Republic of Ireland call-up for next month's games against England and Scotland
Aston Villa rising star Jack Grealish has rejected a first senior Republic of Ireland call-up for next month's games against England and Scotland

I played with George Best twice just before I left Old Trafford for Leeds. He was on the left wing, I was on the right. I thought he was okay. A year later, he was a superstar.

I was surprised. I didn't see it in the brief window I was given but I'm certain that there were others watching the same game who had a different view.

That's what judgement and opinion are all about. One man's genius is another man's plodder. They were right but I wasn't wrong. From what I saw, he was okay. Nothing more than that but I had not seen enough to form a proper judgement.

I tell this tale to offer some sort of context for Martin O'Neill's problem with Jack Grealish. I think he made a bad call on the kid from the start and as a result, Ireland's chance of securing a great young player is fading rapidly.

It is a difficult situation and there is so much about this whole affair which I don't really understand. I don't know why O'Neill didn't go and see him last week if he planned to name him in his squad which, apparently, he was about to do.

STOLE SHOW

I don't know how big a part agents are playing in this and I don't know what Roy Hodgson will do. I hold my hand up and admit that I didn't know very much about the lad until he stole the show at Wembley.

But I watched him in that game and I watched him against against Manchester City. That was enough for me. This boy has a real chance of being a player and I think that is now obvious to everyone.

I said a few weeks back that I would start him against Scotland and the reasoning I used for that was very simple. Is he better than what we have? Yes. Can he handle a big game atmosphere? Absolutely. Would he be phased by a big international game? No more than any other member of the Ireland squad.

That may be the wrong call but it is what I saw in those two games. Grealish is born to this and can be anything he wants to be.

The Ireland manager should have a much more thorough foundation for his opinions than that and I can only assume that Roy Keane was bringing him back reports from the Aston Villa training ground.

Grealish didn't become a wonderful talent overnight. There had to be some indication that he could play. Did Keane miss it? Or did he bring back glowing reports and O'Neill just didn't fancy Grealish?

It certainly seems to me that there was a coolness from O'Neill towards Grealish but I don't know why that should be and as I've always said, the manager is the one with all the facts. I'm just offering a view.

When you are the Ireland senior manager,you have to be much more proactive in the whole area of player recruitment and maybe that has come as something of a surprise to O'Neill.

There is a market of sorts around this age group and Ireland have always traded in it. Just take a look at the current squad and ask yourself how hard it would be to put out a competitive team without the players we recruited from England, Scdotland and Northern Ireland?

I know the FAI are very busy in England and the evidence of their success is the fact that Grealish, third generation Irish, was even an option. But once it became as issue of judgement, the process broke down.

At this point, in might be worthwhile to throw a few stones at Tim Sherwood, who by showing excellent judgement, put Harry Kane out of reach of Ireland and may well be about to do the same with Grealish.

Sherwood took the job at Spurs in impossible circumstances, looked at Kane and decided to give him a shot.

He saw something in Kane which previous managers did not and if Sherwood had never appeared on the scene, he might have languished in the reserves and seen Ireland as a good option.

deep end

The same has happened with Grealish. Sherwood took over from Paul Lambert and threw the boy in at the deep end. Up until then, I heard a lot about his potential but had yet to see any of it.

Much as I am uncomfortable with many aspects of Sherwood's personality and approach, it seems to me that he has a very fine eye for talent and sharper, perhaps than the Ireland No 2 Roy Keane and indeed, Martin O'Neill.

The unfortunate consequence of all of this is that Grealish now has the summer to mull over events with the small matter of that most English of events, the FA Cup final, to look forward to.

Every media outlet will want a piece of him and he will be flagged as the player to watch. That's the very last thing Ireland needs.

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