Thursday 23 November 2017

Choice is clear now for Jack Grealish

Ireland's Georgia win has moved the goalposts

Jack Grealish now has a decision to make on whether to play for Ireland or Roy Hodgson and his England side
Jack Grealish now has a decision to make on whether to play for Ireland or Roy Hodgson and his England side
Roy Hodgson

Jack Grealish now has a clear choice to make. Despite all the doubts, all the concerns about how Ireland play under Martin O'Neill, qualification for Euro 2016 is back in play.

Jon Walters's goal changed the landscape completely and what looked like a no brainer for Grealish is now a much more balanced proposition.

The equation prior to last weekend's complete transformation in Group D was simple enough. Should he try to break into an England squad heading for France or choose a longer project and the next World Cup with Ireland?

It seemed like an obvious choice for a lad born in Birmingham and even more so when Ireland lost to Scotland in the Aviva in June.

If he has been reading the running narrative about the Ireland senior team, he would know that there's a degree of soul-searching in Irish football right now and that nobody is hugely optimistic about the future.

Until this latest twist in the Group D series, the outlook was very bleak indeed.

Now, there is a chance for a play-off and if he wants, Grealish can engage immediately with international football at a level which should satisfy what appears to be an instinctive hunger for big occasions.


Judging by what Roy Hodgson had to say about him, it might be a while before a declaration of allegiance to England pays any dividends and it was difficult not to find an echo in his sentiments, if not to raise a round of applause.

The Grealish saga has gone on for far too long and let's face it, this kid is unproven, over-hyped and has shown some worrying habits off the field.

Hodgson's old school sensibilities were disturbed by the suggestion that he should meet with Grealish and his agent and it is clear that there will be no fast track for the player unless he deserves it.

Unfortunately, O'Neill and Ireland are in a very different position and must bury any worries about Grealish's inability to commit in the hope that when he finally works through whatever he needs to work through in his head, he will pick green.

But the dynamic has shifted. Before Georgia upset Scotland, Grealish looked like part of a solution, a new talent to brighten up a limited squad and that hasn't changed but the people already in the squad might find it more difficult now to accommodate a Johnny Come Lately.


It's one thing to ride into town as a potential saviour, another entirely to take the place of someone who did the hard yards.

But, as O'Neill himself said, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are still two imminently losable games on the menu and after an uninspiring campaign to date, who would bet on Ireland getting even a point from Germany or Poland.

Even with two defeats, the mathematics still allow O'Neill to take his team to France if Scotland's collapse over the weekend continues and they lose at home to Poland.

Turn those results on their head and Ireland amazingly enough, would qualify automatically.

O'Neill has never swerved from his assessment that Group D is a nest of complications and that each series of games would bring a new twist.

He was correct about that but what worked for him in this segment of the fixture list might not go so well in the last.

We are no closer to a definitive Ireland shape or style under O'Neill and no closer to understanding what is he is trying to do with the group of players he has.

But somehow, Ireland are still in it, still battling to qualify for the finals in France and have managed that without a single convincing 90 minute performance.

If O'Neill's luck holds out for a couple more games, he might yet stagger over the line.

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