Saturday 25 November 2017

Jack's move a sign of things to come

Jack Grealish will have to work hard to claim a place in the England squad, according to manager Roy Hodgson
Jack Grealish will have to work hard to claim a place in the England squad, according to manager Roy Hodgson

A partnership of Jonjoe Kenny and Callum Connolly has the the makings of a decent half-back line for an inter-county side in the O'Byrne Cup.

They are actually just two of the players who will be involved for England's U19 side in a series of European Championship qualifiers later this month, an English squad which has ex-Ireland man Lee Carsley on the coaching staff. Also this month, England's U20 side take part in a tournament, their squad containing names like Burke, Gallagher and Brannagan.

England this week (finally) welcomed to the fold Jack Grealish, a player who only seven months ago came to Dublin along with his Kerry-born granny to accept the award for Ireland's U21 player of the year, and it's clear that he will not be the last English-born player, who is also eligible for Ireland, to be chased and ultimately swayed by England's call.

"The English have really upped their game in terms of getting on board players who could play for Ireland," says an FAI source.

"They nearly lost Grealish and they don't want to lose any more, so it's a challenge for us to deal with that."

Grealish's debut in a white shirt will have to wait as Roy Hodgson was unable to include him for this month's Euro 2016 qualifiers when he picked that squad yesterday. Hodgson has told Grealish, following a long pursuit of the player, that he can go all the way with the three lions on his shirt - if he works hard and is good enough. But Hodgson is also aware that other dual-eligibility players who face a choice between the land of their birth (England) and the land of their granny (Ireland) will now sit back and assess how Grealish gets on in the England set-up. If he is a one-cap-wonder and fails to progress, that could discourage others from opting for England. For now, Hodgson is just happy to have his man on board.

"I think it is the right decision, frankly he is English having met him and his father, it is an English family albeit with fairly distant Irish roots," said Hodgson, perhaps unaware that Grealish first played for Ireland back in 2010 and also played at Croke Park. "I think he has got the talent to be an England player, he has a lot of work today before that day is concreted - but I was happy that in a choice between the two countries he took the bolder decision to try and be an England international.

"We are very happy but what matters now is how he does for Aston Villa - he has got to play well enough now to make sure he gets into the England squad. If you make the decision it is because it is something you want to do, I left it with him and I was very pleased to see he plumped for us.

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