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Thursday 20 June 2019

No itchy feet from Cullen as Irish call 'means everything'

IRON MAN: Josh Cullen pictured in training ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2020 clash with Gibraltar. Photo: SPORTSFILE
IRON MAN: Josh Cullen pictured in training ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2020 clash with Gibraltar. Photo: SPORTSFILE

A close bond with his friend, and club-mate, means that Josh Cullen is not going to get involved in slinging mud in the direction of Declan Rice.

But midfielder Cullen, on loan to Charlton from West Ham, hopes that he gets the chance to don the green jersey in the next week to end any possible talk about his own international allegiance.

Cullen, like Rice, declared for the Republic via his grandparents (lovely Leitrim, in the case of Cullen) but while Rice has defected and is now embedded with the England set-up, Cullen is enjoying an unexpected call-up to the senior Irish squad, with his status as a League One player no barrier for Mick McCarthy.

England have not (yet) come calling for London native Cullen but the promising midfielder hopes that a senior cap will stop any suggestion that he could jump ship.

"Everyone is different. Obviously Dec had that in his mind that he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He's made the decision now and now we wish him all the best and hopefully he goes on and has a successful career," says Cullen, promoted to the senior squad after he made an impression on McCarthy while playing on loan to Charlton.

"For me, I'm totally focused on playing for Ireland and hopefully all the talk will be squashed when I make an appearance and hopefully that's in this break and it'll be done and dusted.

"When a case happens with something like Declan you can totally understand that people will think that way. But I'm just focused on playing for Ireland and if the appearance comes this time or if I have to wait, my full focus is on playing for Ireland.

Proud

"This means everything. As a young lad growing up you want to represent your country at the top level in the senior game. It's fantastic. To have captained the U21s and to have played quite a few times for the U21s was obviously a great feeling.

"I was so proud to be able to do that but to get the first senior call up and to get that feeling when I was coming in was top of the lot really. I'm over the moon and really proud to be here."

Cullen has had some, limited, game time for the Hammers and while he has prospered under Lee Bowyer at Charlton, he remains hopeful of being a Hammer in the long-term.

"As it stands, I'm on loan from West Ham at Chartlon until the end of the season. I've still got a year left on my contract. I've always said the focus is to get into West Ham's first team," he says.

"It's a loan deal and it's been great at Charlton, and I've enjoyed my time but I'll go back at the end of the season and see how things go at West Ham and see where we go from there.

"I've always said that you can only take care of your club football and that the international recognition will come. So I just played as well as I could and I wasn't really thinking about it too much.

"If you think about it too much then it can play on your mind and you start worrying.

"So I was just playing as usual and I have always said that if you are playing well for your club then recognition on the international stage will come."

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