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Declan Rice to submit request to switch to England from Republic of Ireland

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West Ham United defensive midfielder Declan Rice has made a decision on his international future, saying it was very difficult but his “heart and his head” say to file a one-time switch to represent England over the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old was capped thrice for the Republic of Ireland, but his rise to a fixture under two managers at West Ham catapulted the possibilities of his representing the country of his birth, England.

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He was capped by Ireland at the U-16, U-17, U-19, and U-21 levels by Ireland before playing the full-90 for the senior team in a trio of 2018 friendlies against France, Turkey, and the U.S.

“I am a proud Englishman, having been born and raised in London. However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country.”

Read the full statement below. It’s a hammer blow to what could’ve been a decade-long answer to Ireland’s midfield, and a risk for Rice. That said, his promise is nearly immeasurable.

England legend Gordon Banks dies

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Legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81.

Banks was the goalkeeper for England when they won the 1966 World Cup on home soil and he produced one of the greatest saves in history in the 1970 World Cup to deny Brazil’s Pele.

The former Leicester City and Stoke City goalkeeper was known across the planet as one of the all-time great stoppers. Banks was named the FIFA goalkeeper of the year for five-straight years from 1966-71 and won the League Cup in England with both Leicester and Stoke.

Banks played 73 times for England, as well as playing in the U.S. for the Cleveland Stokers and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers towards the end of his career.

Below is a look at his finest moment, while plenty of key figures in the game have paid tribute to Banks.


Britain, Ireland to discuss 2030 World Cup bid

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A meeting between the football associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will occur after the UEFA congress in Rome on Friday, with the main aim being to put together a bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

Hosting the 2030 World Cup just in Britain had previously been the aim, but support is growing to include both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the bid.

The main aim of this meeting is to select 16 potential venues for the tournament, which will see 48 teams compete as the larger format will start from the 2026 World Cup in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

This kind of World Cup bid is the future for the competition. With the tournament growing in terms of the number of teams competing, larger nations, or joint hosts, are needed to cope with the huge amounts of fans attending the events.

In this situation, spreading the World Cup across the UK and Ireland makes perfect sense as all of the host cities would be within a 90 minute flight of one another. The train system in the UK would mean the longest trip would probably be from London to Glasgow, which can be done in around four hours.

With EURO 2020 being spread across Europe, it will be intriguing to see if this model will be used for future World Cups so that entire countries do not carry the whole burden of having to build new stadiums and infrastructure to cope with hosting it.

Even in England it is believed the likes of Anfield, Old Trafford and Tottenham’s new stadium at White Hart Lane would need upgrades to reach certain standards FIFA require in terms of media facilities, having a certain distance around the pitch between fans and players and things of that nature.

Oxlade-Chamberlain back in Liverpool training

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in Liverpool training, nine months after a horrible injury cost him the chance to appear in the UEFA Champions League Final.

Initially ruled out for the duration of the 2018-19 season following an ACL year, “The Ox” is giving the Reds a boost in Dubai.

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The 25-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain posted five goals and seven assists in his first season at Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has 32 England caps and 283 senior appearances between Southampton, Arsenal, and Liverpool. He left the Gunners in part because of a desire to play a more central role in the midfield.

Oxlade-Chamberlain detailed his recovery late last year. There’s yet to be discussion of when he might be fit to return to match play, but Liverpool will be careful with its industrious playmaker.

Reports: Simeone, Southgate on Manchester United’s list

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It seems Manchester United’s pursuit of a new manager has not lost any steam, even as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts his undefeated Manchester United record on the line Sunday.

The Red Devils have been linked with two more names this weekend, one a long-time whisper and the other a bit of a surprise.

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The Daily Mirror reports that Diego Simeone has been “sounded out” by United’s brass, with 18 months left on his Atletico Madrid contract and La Liga’s mainstays actively seeking to extend his 7-year reign in Spain.

And United is also considering England boss Gareth Southgate as an option, according to Sky Sports, touting the manager’s acumen in developing young players and strong reputation in the soccer community.

The two options could hardly be more different, or less likely. Simeone is a no-brainer for literally any open job on Earth, while Southgate’s flower has just bloomed and is merely a prospect having held one Premier League job at the club level.

Simeone is a master tactician capable of leading an aggressive attack, but more likely to err on the side prudent of than free-flowing at all costs, especially in big matches.

A fireball on the sidelines, Simeone also has a resume reputation few managers can touch. He won La Liga during the Ronaldo-Messi era in 2013-14, twice claimed the Europa League, has won the Copa del Rey, and was a two-time Champions League runner-up all while dealing with sales of Theo Hernandez, Arda Turan, Mario Mandzukic, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, and David De Gea (who has since returned).

As for Southgate, his reputation has grown in a big way since leading England to the 2018 World Cup semifinal and the inaugural UEFA Nations League knockout rounds. He has unrivaled job security in terms of the Three Lions job, having led England’s U-21 to the Toulon Tournament title and helped developed many of their stars.

But his club experience as a manager is less impressive, winning 29 percent of his games at Middlesbrough over three seasons. He led Boro to 12th, 13th, and 19th place Premier League finishes, and left the relegated club in its first season during the Championship.

Southgate would still, of course, be an attractive option.