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"If Ireland Had Have Come For Me First, I Definitely Would Have Gone"

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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There's scarcely a week that goes by now when we don't learn of another ex-pro with an impeccably English accent who could have played for the green.

A fella with a Mancunian or a Cockney accent who was just waiting by the phone for Big Jack or Mick McCarthy to call.

Ireland were accused of taking the piss with our over-reliance on the Granny Rule back in the Charlton years. Recall the Spitting Image sketch where Jack Charlton unveils his brand new Irish star Paddy O'Gascoigne.

But now it transpires that we didn't milk it half enough.

On Off the Ball on Tuesday night, Trevor Sinclair, who thrived for England in the 2002 World Cup, disclosed he could easily have been togging out for the green in Ibaraki and Yokohama.

It was purely a matter of who asked him first.

Unlike some players who have played for Ireland, and definitely unlike some recent players who ultimately turned us down (ahem... Mark Noble) Sinclair says he had a clear affiliation with Ireland when growing up.


If Ireland had have come for me first, I definitely would have gone for Ireland. I definitely had an affiliation with Ireland. We were brought up that way although I lived all my life in England.

They (Ireland) actually came in for me just after I'd made an U21 appearance at competitive level (for England) and the rule at the time were that if you had played U21 you couldn't change nationality. It's (the rule) changed now.

There was an inquiry from Jack just before 1994 World Cup. I'd had half a season at QPR and there was an inquiry came in from Ireland to see if I was available for the full-team. Unfortunately that ship had sailed.

But I'm sure if I had got that opportunity to play with the greats like Paul McGrath and Chrissy Hughton* I would have definitely jumped at it... You got McAteer instead (laughter).


Irish-qualifier but English-born lads break into a few categories. There's the die-hards like Tony Grealish, Terry Phelan, Stephen Reid and countless others. Guys who never even thought of playing for anyone only Ireland. Had the England manager made inquiries, he'd have quickly had the door slammed in his face.

Then there's the others who only plumped for Ireland because they were resigned to the fact that the call from England wouldn't come. Mark Lawrenson, who played brilliantly for Ireland from the late 70s until 1988, was actually pretty frank about this when speaking to Green and Red many years ago.


We learned recently that Rio Ferdinand was technically qualified to play for Ireland. He was quizzed by none other than Brenda Donohue on the subject at the BT Young Scientist of the Year recently.

They sent us a letter and stuff but listen, I'm English. I'm born and bred in England. I love a pint of Guinness but it was never going to happen.

In Rio's case, it was a non-starter. But Trevor Sinclair made clear tonight it was a definite starter. We got McAteer instead.


*He actually said "Chrissy Houghton" here and, anyway, Chris Hughton didn't play for Ireland beyond 1991 but sure... leave it. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Listen below:



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