It’s good to have options and important choices to make, isn’t it?
Like an increasingly large number of dual-national footballers these days, Jack Grealish has options, and a very, very big choice to make. The 19-year-old Aston Villa midfielder is being fiercely courted by the English national team, that of his birth country, and the national team of the Republic of Ireland, the nation from which his paternal grandparents hail.
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Both nations want the Birmingham-born attacking midfielder right now, which means Grealish’s decision could come any day now. According to England manager Roy Hodgson, Grealish is welcome to file his one-time switch of allegiance (he has represented Ireland at a number of different youth levels) and join the Three Lions ahead of this summer’s U-21 European Championship, with an eye toward next summer’s senior tournament.
Speaking this week, Hodgson had the following to say regarding Grealish’s impending decision, from the Guardian:
“He’s fully aware that if he wants to play for England we’d be very happy to take him. He could play for either country, which one is it going to be? He has to decide. If he doesn’t want to play [for England] or he has doubts, then don’t. We want people who want to be there. We are doing them a favour by picking them – not them doing us a favour by turning up.
“He’s a very talented footballer. He can manipulate the ball in tight areas, he’s a very technically gifted player who seems to play without fear. He seems to be a very strong-minded and confident individual. In my opinion, at this young age, he’s showing the qualities that will make him a very good future international player. But I don’t want to put pressure on him to play for us if he wants to play for Ireland.
In that same story, Hodgson notes he’d have called Grealish into the very team announced on Thursday, had their opponents on June 7 been anyone other than…you guessed it…Ireland. With that game signifying England’s first trip to Dublin since the Lansdowne Road riot in 1995, Hodgson thought it wise not to further fuel a potentially flammable situation.
Playing for England obviously puts a player on a much larger stage (i.e. the World Cup and EURO tournaments every other year), while the guarantee of a first-time place with Ireland is much greater. For a 19-year-old kid, what a hefty decision it will be.