The question of whether Jack Grealish will declare for England or the Republic of Ireland has been the focus of much attention in recent weeks. Brian Barry gives us his thoughts on the issue.
Following the decision by Aston Villa not to send 19 year-old Jack Grealish out on loan, speculation that the England camp will come calling has arisen. English-born teenagers plying their trade in the Premier League is not as common as it once was, and the versatile midfielder is surely on Roy Hodgson’s radar. But with just a season in League One under his belt, is the hype surrounding the youngster justified?
At eighteen, Grealish was signed by Notts County on a loan deal until January, but it was extended until the end of last season. Handed the number seven shirt by the club, Grealish went on to make 37 appearances, scoring five goals along the way. Overall, it was deemed a success, as the Birmingham native caused headaches for opposition managers throughout League One.
Despite hailing from England, Grealish opted to represent the Republic of Ireland at underage level, qualifying through his Dublin-born father, and grandparents from Kerry, Galway, and Dublin. Since electing to pull on the green shirt at the age of 14, he has won caps from u15 to u21 level.
Having rejected an advance by the Three Lions when they named him in an u17 squad in 2011, he has been touted as a future England international time and time again. Up to this point, he has declined England’s advances, but with excitement building around his prospects, Grealish rejected joining the Irish u21 squad last month, in order to consider his options.
Tabloid talk suggests that Chelsea have expressed an interest in the midfielder. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. The mere fact that at such a young age, he is not only playing in the Premier League, but now being linked with an elite club, is a testament to how many admirers he has gained.
He has featured for Villa this season, but has not fully produced yet. Making his home debut against Hull City, Grealish was targeted, and quite frankly, beaten up. Steve Bruce was wary of the threat posed by the second half substitute, and instructed that he nip it in the bud.
So England and Chelsea are interested, and media momentum is gathering. But the fact remains; the hype is not justified.
At 19, Grealish has not done enough to warrant the hype. He is not the solution to fill any gaping voids in the Irish or English setup. He is a prospect, but nothing more. How many ‘prospects’ have we seen through the years fail to live up to their potential? The likes of Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, Michael Owen, Stan Collymore leave England fans scratching their heads as to why they have not been more successful in recent times.
Is hype a factor? Is there too much weight being put on young shoulders? O’Neill has described him as a “young kid”, who needs time to make a decision on his international future. A young kid may be susceptible to crumbling under such expectation. He is player who has only produced in League One, and we have not seen anything yet.
Pressure on the youngster may encourage him to elect the England camp. While Ireland no longer resemble the England B team, there may be a sense that he will play at more major championships should he choose his country of birth.
In truth, this must be the only draw of England, as he has pledged his allegiance to Ireland on many occasions. Grealish obviously has a sense of pride pulling on the green shirt, and quite frankly, it is a joke that England are still able to tap up the Villa player.
Simply put, Grealish is a hot prospect, but nothing more. He is not yet the real deal. The hype is unjustified.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.