Football

Steven Reid's Great Quote Reminds Us Of How Many English Born Players Feel About Playing For Ireland

Steven Reid's Great Quote Reminds Us Of How Many English Born Players Feel About Playing For Ireland

In the Irish Independent yesterday, Steven Reid wrote about his feelings when it came to the sometimes thorny business of English born players playing for Ireland. For him and many others who wore the green, there was never any dilemma.

When Ireland walk out to play England tomorrow, there is no doubt in my mind who I want to win - and it won't be the country I have lived all my life in.

You could offer me anything now - the extra millions I could have earned had I won 23 caps for England rather than Ireland, the offer of leading England out at Wembley - and I'd turn it down.

When a kite was flown last year suggesting that Curtis Davies could be a future Irish prospect, we spoke to Liam George and he briefly referenced Steven Reid's situation.

George, a friend of Davies, said the player was at best conflicted about playing for Ireland and no real affinity for the country. His was technically eligible to play for Ireland but the link was so tenuous as to be comical. His great-grandfather was in the British army during the War of Independence and his daughter (Davies' grandmother) was thus born in Ireland around that time. The family moved back to England very shortly afterwards and had no interaction with this country thereafter.

George argued that it should be incumbent on an English born player of Irish extraction to seek out Ireland rather than have the FAI trawl the English Football League looking for unlikely players who technically qualified for Ireland.

And he instanced Steven Reid as a prime example of someone who actually alerted the FAI of his Irish links - rather than the other way around.

George contrasted the stories of both Davies and Gary Doherty (who did play for Ireland) with that of his own background.

They compare me and Gary Doherty a lot because we went to the same school, both his parents were Irish, he was born in Donegal. But yet, he hasn't got a clue about Ireland. It's not that he couldn't care less, its just he's not very culturally aware. Whereas me, I was in Ireland every six weeks on my summer holidays. I were forced to go over there. I was in Ballymun, I was in Fairview. I was a kind of bona fide Dublin boy, all my cousins played for St. Vincents, so I was brought up in that environment. I was always very aware of being Irish.

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In all the scoffing at the granny rule, we should recall the Irish players who were born in England but were in many cases more Irish than the Irish.

Eoin Hand told us about the late Tony Grealish, who was the only man to play both Gaelic football and soccer at Wembley, and how and Rotherham born goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh used to know the words of Irish rebel songs he'd never even heard of.

The case of Alan McLoughlin, the hero of November 1993, who was badly hurt by a lazy aside in Roy Keane's first autobiography which indicated that he was oblivious to Irish history and couldn't understand the tension in the air that night in Windsor Park.

Now, Townsend and Aldridge may have qualified through the ‘granny rule’ and Cass, as he later revealed, had no immediate Irish heritage and wasn’t actually entitled to an Irish cap at all.

But me? Both my parents were Irish and had a good grasp of the nation’s history; I knew exactly what that rivalry was all about. Just as much, if not more, than Roy Keane.

McLoughlin, like Tony Grealish, was called up to England underage teams but refused the call reasoning that he was Irish and that was the team he was set on playing for.

Just consider Mr. Cult Hero himself Gary Breen, who told Paul Howard he watched the Ireland-England match in Euro 88 on holiday with his mates, wearing an Ireland jersey. The only one among his party who did so.

And what about this great quote from full back Terry Phelan, a man much beloved around these parts, from back in 2011.

I'm Irish through and through. The only thing I haven't got is an Irish accent. If I could change my accent I would, but I've got to work with what I've got.

God forbid, if there was a world war, and we had to go to war, I'd be first in line going to defend Ireland.

Read more: Some Of The Stories From Alan McLoughlin's Book Are Ridiculously Entertaining

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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