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Jack Grealish should declare to play for the Republic of Ireland

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At the end of the day, only young Jack Grealish himself will decide whether or not he chooses to play international football for England or the Republic Of Ireland.

In spite of this, I’m still going to go through why the Aston Villa youngster should play for Ireland.

Firstly, Jack Grealish’s quality means that he would already make Martin O'Neill’s starting team. Besides that, he could have made a real difference in Ireland’s massive upcoming European qualifier with Scotland. Such a stir over his international allegiance isn’t being caused without reason, the hype must be believed - Grealish is a footballer with enormous potential.

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Ireland are longing for a new generation to break through, a new crop of young Robbie Keane’s, Shay Given’s and Damian Duff’s is due. Grealish, though not yet with much company, represents what the next generation can be, and he can have an immediate impact at a young age for the boys in green, similar to those aforementioned Irish stalwarts!

Promise

Though the old boys of the Irish squad have stuck around, the Emerald Isle do have the nucleus available to develop a great new team. James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman, along with Southampton’s Shane Long, are probably Ireland’s three most consistent performers.

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Aidan McGeady has tonnes of natural ability and James McClean seems an inspired man when he puts on the famous green jersey.

Jeff Hendrick is a fantastic young midfielder breaking into the side, and Hull’s Robbie Brady has been kept on the fringes of consistent appearances by injuries, but he is also a gifted footballer with a big future in the Irish national team.

There is a good young backbone there, that will be around for a good while, even when the likes of Irish legends Keane and Given do hang up their boots.

Something extra

Grealish can add a spark to that squad though. He has already displayed beautiful skill on the ball with big game performances, and he seems to have the football brain of a honed veteran. I believe the midfielder can go on to become the greatest Irish player of his generation, and with those maturing teammates Ireland could go far by building a team around the Aston Villa starlet.

In general, Irish teams are known for making up with what they lack technically, with the greatest sense of team spirit, work rate and pure blood, sweat and tears.

Even when good Irish teams have done well at major championships, you’ll very seldom hear an Irish fan exclaim: "God, we’re playing fabulous football here." It doesn’t work like that. I mean, the team is prone to the odd big goal at a major finals, but the key is the pride, the passion and the patriotism that Irish team possesses.

Eire is a humble nation, with an emphasis on community. Playing for Ireland is like a tribal privilege, somewhat of a blessing for it’s sons, no set of international fans travel in as much colour or adore their team much more, and no other nation has an identity as marvellous in its heritage.

Jack must not underestimate the offer he has been given to pull on that - internationally distinctive looking - famous green jersey.

One cap wonder?

There is also the question of what will become of Jack Grealish as an English international should he decide to opt for the three lions instead of the boys in green.

I think Grealish has the promise to become a successful England international in the future, but it’s a completely different ball game to the Irish set up. If I were Roy Hodgson I would be trying to intergrate him into my England squad, but the 19-year-old may never walk into an English side that will always have many top flight and top club players to choose from.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I also can foresee Grealish drifting into mediocrity and non-selection if he decides to play for England. The pool of players to pick from, and the nature of selection and scrutiny, mean that for many great footballers international football for England might not materialise, especially for those who are prodigies at a young age.

Wasted talent

Jermaine Pennant and Kieron Dyer were both seen as future England stars, but Pennant never made an international cap despite Arsenal paying £2million for him as a 15 year old.

Meanwhile, Dyer made 33 England caps and could have had a lot more, he doesn’t even have an international goal to show for his 33 matches played. Many have been hyped up by the English media to go on and achieve feats for their country that they won’t want reminded of.

David Nugent, Francis Jeffers and Chris Kirkland are three more examples of flops, they all had just one cap each in an England shirt.

Of course, it doesn’t always turn out this way, but there is a pattern that has emerged given the congestion of young English talent on the fringes of making the national side, and then actually trying to stay in the national side.

Then there is the question of the severely underachieving English national side. What's the bug and why can’t they shake it off? The rot doesn’t seem like stopping anytime soon, is the prospect of being an England international really that attractive after all?

International success?

On a positive note, if Grealish can secure a long-term place in the English side he will get to play his home games at Wembley, and surely he will play at various major championships. Many players would dream of such opportunities.

In truth, for Jack, there are more positive reasons in playing for Ireland, than there are positive reasons in playing for England, and - on a personal level - the green path may be the one where Jack at least gets the acclaim and appreciation he is already beginning to deserve for his football.

Many people are using the fact that Jack Grealish has played for Ireland’s underage national teams as justification to suggest that he should play for the country’s senior team.

I understand this idea. Loyalty is a commendable attribute, but I don’t completely buy the reasoning either. Rules enable you to play youth internationals freely, knowing that you don’t actually have to play your senior international football for that one specific country of citizenship.

Therefore, of course most young footballers are going to take the call-up and experience international football as a teenager, whether they feel a part of that nation or not. Anybody placing burden on the teenager’s shoulders for playing youth football for Ireland shouldn’t, it’s not realistic to say that this means he should only ever play for Ireland.

Tough decision

In the Aston Villa dressing room I have no doubt that Fabian Delph will be urging Grealish to try and break into the England XI alongside him, fantasising that perhaps one day they will lift a World Cup trophy together.

I also have no doubt that Shay Given will be singing ‘Hills of Donegal’ and ‘Fields of Athenry’ to his teammate, to charm him into calling the Emerald Isle his nation, perhaps even trying to convince him that he could win the World Cup one day with Ireland too.

The fact of the matter, however, is that Grealish is the one keeping us all on the edge of our seats (or the Irish fans, at least) as only he knows what he wants to do and he is keeping his cards very close to his chest in saying that he won’t be speaking about his international future until September.

Besides all the arguments being thrown at him - by myself, Martin O ‘Neill and Roy Hodgson - Jack is the only one who knows whether he feels truly English or truly Irish. If he feels a bit of both then various arguments do come into play, but when selecting a national team you should be selecting the nation you feel most connected to, the nation you feel a part of.

If Jack feels more English than Irish or vice versa, then nobody can argue with his decision to play for his country. International football should be a pure kind of football, money doesn’t matter, just devout loyalty to the country with which you feel unified.

No debating should matter unless there really is a strong sense of dual nationality for Grealish, but I hope that he does make the correct decision with his heart, and I sincerely hope that the decision is Ireland.

Do you think Jack Grealish will play for England or Ireland? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Topics:
Football
Shay Given
Premier League
Robbie Keane
Wayne Rooney
Fabian Delph
Martin O’Neill
Aston Villa

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