Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood in the dark over Jack Grealish's international future

Jack Grealish

The Villa boss is staying out of the tug-of-war between Ireland and England over his 20-year-old playmaker.

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has stressed that he is not getting involved in the tug-of-war between the Republic of Ireland and England over Jack Grealish’s international future.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s trip to Leicester City, which the 20-year-old could miss due to an ankle problem, Sherwood told his pre-match conference: “All I try to do is influence him when he’s here training and playing – and he’s playing very well.

“I’ve spoken to Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill, Jack Grealish and his father and have made it clear that it’s not my decision to make. It’s up to those three to fight it out and keep me out of it.

"He wouldn’t have been able to play this week anyway because he’s been injured, and maybe he wouldn’t have been selected in both cases. He needs to start playing well for Aston Villa on a regular basis for us to even be talking about that argument."

 Premier League career GoalsAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyTotal Crosses MINSCrossing AccuracyTotal Dribbles MINSDribble AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Jack Grealish 0 1 20 92% 24.51 43% 27.48 74% 19 907

Eligible to play for Ireland through his grandparents, Grealish has represented the Boys in Green through Under-15 to Under-21 level, but his recent emergence on the Premier League scene has led to suggestions that he could be set to switch international allegiances to England.

Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson has already spoken publicly about trying to recruit the Solihull-native, telling the likes of Sky Sports last week: "I'm not 100 per cent certain of what he is waiting for. I would like him to come out and say, 'I've thought about it, I've got the two possibilities, and I'm opting for England', and then he will be available for selection.

“But he has been injured, to be fair, so he wouldn't have been selectable for any team during these September fixtures. Now, maybe before the October fixtures, he might make that decision."

Those comments have since sparked criticism from Ireland counterpart Martin O’Neill, who accused Hodgson of putting undue pressure on Grealish, amid reports that the promising attacker has decided to commit to England [h/t The Independent].

Sherwood insists, though, that he is none the wiser about his star prospect’s leanings, adding: “No, he hasn’t told me. I really can’t make his decision for him. In his heart of hearts, he’s got to decide where he is – is he English or Irish? And that’s what he’s got to base his decision on.

“I had a similar situation [at Tottenham Hotspur] with Nabil Bentaleb, who had the opportunity to play for France or Algeria, and, when I spoke to him, he just said that his blood was Algerian.

“That was how he made his decision. Perhaps Jack will feel the same.”

At the club level, meanwhile, Grealish has made an impressive start to the campaign after recovering from a hamstring strain which he picked up in pre-season, having been Villa’s star man in both the 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace and 5-3 Capital One Cup victory over Notts County last month.

The 20-year-old missed the following 2-2 draw with Sunderland with an ankle injury, however, but Sherwood is hoping that the international break will have given him sufficient time to recover for the weekend’s trip to Midlands rivals Leicester.

“The Notts County game [in which Grealish had two assists] was probably the best I’ve ever seen him,” said Sherwood. “He got stronger and stronger as the game went on but unfortunately picked up an ankle injury the day before the Sunderland game.

“We’re hoping that he might be able to get himself fit for this weekend and certainly the derbies coming up.”

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch