Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has revealed that Aston Villa's Jack Grealish is considering switching international allegiances to England, but won't attempt to make up the winger's mind for him.
Having represented the Republic of Ireland through to under-21 level, Aston Villa’s rising star Jack Grealish is now considering switching international allegiances to England.
The club’s brightest prospect, Grealish, 18, spent most of last season on loan at League One’s Notts County, where his star performances were a key factor in the club’s dramatic escape from relegation.
Making his Premier League debut in a brief two-minute cameo towards the end of the campaign, the promising winger would go on to establish himself in Villa’s first-team during pre-season with a string of impressive performances, earning the praise of manager Paul Lambert and the rest of coaching staff.
Playing the final 20 minutes of the 1-0 victory over Stoke City last Saturday, England are now understood be anxious to secure Birmingham-born Grealish’s services, and Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has conceded that the decision is up to the teenager.
‘I spoke to his father, I spoke to Jack,’ O’Neill told reporters. ‘He’s a young kid coming through and he’s got a lot of potential — I’ve said this before. I think they just want to take a little bit of time.
‘Of course he’s got a number of options. He has felt comfortable playing underage football but the underage football is a completely different thing to committing yourself to senior football.
‘He has got a lot of talent. He’s gotten taller and he’s gotten much stronger in the last couple of months. It was a decent conversation. I think I’ll just leave it at that at the moment.’
With O’Neill’s number two Roy Keane currently positioned at Villa Park as assistant manager to Lambert, Ireland have an influential figure in place to persuaded Grealish against a potential switch to England.
However, after not being included in the side’s 36-man provisional squad for the fixtures against Oman and Georgia, the former Celtic and Villa boss has said that he wants to let the skilled attacker make his own choice, free of pressure.
‘I really do not want to be pressurising. I would like people to come to their own decision,’ he explained. ‘I'm sure if Roy sticks on the assistant manager's head with us, he would like him. He has been impressed by him.
‘But I don't think this puts Roy in an awkward position. I think obviously he will do his best but I want the decision to come from the players themselves.’