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Saturday 1 October 2016

Paul Hyland: Martin O'Neill in a flap over Villa's star turn Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish

SO now that the whole world knows about Jack Grealish and the words 'decent prospect' have been replaced by 'proper player', what is Martin O'Neill going to do about it?

Up to the moment Grealish ran out at Wembley and embraced his future with undiluted confidence, the issue of his nationality was less relevant than the substance behind the player.

Many have been hyped but few are chosen. Promising careers have been destroyed by getting too much, too young.

READ MORE: England turn sights to Republic hope Jack Grealish

On a number of occasions and as recently as Thursday last, O'Neill made light of the "bits and pieces" of game time which Grealish has been getting and claimed that he could not make a true judgement until he sees a body of work over a long spell of time as a starter and not a substitute.

But Grealish was everywhere yesterday. His performance at Wembley cannot be ignored or down-played. Pundits, football writers and television's all-seeing eye zoomed in on him and if it hasn't happened already, before this week is out someone in England will ask; why isn't this lad in our senior squad?

If he was asked before Aston Villa dumped Liverpool out of the FA Cup and Shay Given and Grealish won themselves a bigger day out at Wembley, Roy Hodgson would have demurred and talked about Gareth Southgate's England Under-21 environment as the natural home for a bright young thing.

Now, Hodgson will have to view Grealish through different eyes. If there is one certainty in this world, it is the English media's ability to lean on an England manager and let's face it, this one is a no brainer.

From an English perspective, they have every right to go to Grealish and offer him a place in their senior squad. After all, he was born in England. His mother and father were born in England and you have to go a distance back to find various parts of Ireland in the mix.

Forget about the fact that he has played all his international football in green rather than white to date. It would be deeply hypocritical to cite that as a deciding factor given the FAI's willingness to put such trifling matters to one side when a player from Northern Ireland or Scotland jumps the fence.

It would be a win/win for Hodgson. He would merely have to name Grealish in his squad for the May/June international schedule and sit back.

Some believe that O'Neill should do exactly the same. His thinking to date is that there is no need to force a decision and that doing so might produce the wrong outcome. It might be time to bin that strategy.

O'Neill and Roy Keane clearly believe they should not have to go cap in hand and under no circumstances are they prepared to offer him any guarantees.

Fair enough. No player is bigger than a team no matter how good he is or how good he thinks he is.

UNPROVEN

But the question has changed since Wembley. Before that, Grealish's ability was notional, unproven. It remains largely so and in an ideal world, you would like to see what O'Neill wants to see; a decent first-team run and a willingness to submit to the normal routine of promotion within an international squad structure.

But Grealish is a media darling in England now and that changes everything. On Sunday, Stephen Hunt offered some advice to Grealish and suggested he review Stephen Ireland's approach to international football and do the opposite.

He might well have extended that and offered O'Neill some advice. Name Grealish for the double date in June and let nature take its course.

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