When Jack Grealish was trying to decide whether to represent the Republic of Ireland or England at senior level, it was the subject of incredible discussion in Irish and British media. The fact that Grealish had hopped a bit of ball for John Mitchels GAA club in Warwickshire was repeated endlessly by those of us trying desperately to convince ourselves of his Irish loyalty. When Grealish eventually chose to represent the country of his birth-rather than that of his father-he was (and has continued to be) subject to a torrent of abuse (rather than intelligent analysis). Even from sportswear companies.
Now Grealish has spoken out for the first time about his decision to choose the Three Lions over the Boys in Green.
Grealish admits that he "didn't expect so much abuse from Ireland fans...I was still getting it during the Euros", and he maintained that it was himself-rather than his agent, as some speculated at the time-that made the decision in the end:
It was a big decision and wasn’t easy for me...I thought about it for a long time, spoke with my family and my agent, but in the end it came from me.
Grealish put in some strong displays in the summer Toulon Tournament in May with the England under-21s, which England eventually won. And Grealish is convinced he has a strong future in the white shirt, especially as he now feels he has put his mistakes of the past behind him.
For my career I think if I fulfil my ability I feel I can play for England in years to come.
We all make mistakes when we’re young but you won’t be seeing me do any of that again...I didn’t realise what the attention would be like, I just thought I’d go on holiday like all young lads do...as a professional footballer you can’t do that sort of thing.
We’re supposed to be role models for kids.
Grealish will perhaps enjoy a year slightly out of the spotlight as his Aston Villa side fight to regain their place in the Premier League after a nightmare season saw them relegated to the Championship.
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE