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From start to finish - how the Jack Grealish tug of war developed

We look back on a protracted saga which played out over the course of the last four years.
Sep 28th 2015, 9:35 PM 6,347 21

AFTER BEING AT the centre of a tug-of-war between Ireland and England, Jack Grealish has finally declared his international allegiance.

The Aston Villa midfielder has opted to represent England, a decision which brings the curtain down on a saga which rumbled on for the best part of four years.

Here, we look back on the timeline of the Jack Grealish saga.

19 October 2011 – Ireland debut

The Ireland team photo Source: James Crombie/INPHO

16-year-old Jack Grealish pulled on the green jersey for the first time in Almaty as Joe Morling’s Ireland U17 side scored eight past Liechtenstein. Grealish was on the score-sheet, too, as he made it 6-0 shortly after half-time before being withdrawn on the hour mark.

October 2012 – Frozen out at U19 Championships

Sat on the bench for Ireland’s campaign at the U19 Championships after failing to break into the reckoning under Paul Doolin.

14 August 2013 – Makes U21 debut

Grealish won his first call-up to Noel King’s U21 panel for the European Championship qualifier against Faroe Islands and made a brief cameo as a second-half substitute.

“If he switches to England, there’s nothing we can do but my advice would be don’t switch too early,” King said at the time.

“There’s always pressure when you’re a talented young boy and everyone likes you and you’re making a decision that affects the rest of your career. But I’ve talked to the father, the agent and the boy and he’s committed, as of last night.”

15 November 2013 – First start for Noel King’s side

Jack Grealish celebrates scoring his side's third goal with Samir Carruthers and Anthony Forde Source: James Crombie/INPHO

After another second-half appearance during Ireland’s heavy defeat to Germany at the Showgrounds, Grealish was rewarded with a start against Faroe Islands. He marked the occasion with his first goal for the U21s in a 5-2 victory in Sligo.

The Birmingham-born midfielder said pulling on the green jersey made him ‘very proud’.

“I made up my mind a few months ago that Ireland was the best for me and I’m happy with the decision,” he said.

“It was disappointing not to play any of those Under-19 qualifiers last season in Luxembourg but it’s a team game and the main thing is the lads got through to the next round.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen after that but I thought about it and didn’t want to switch. My U21 debut in the Faroes was the first time in over a year that pulled on that green jersey. That made me feel very proud.

8 December 2013 – Breaks onto the scene with Notts County

Grealish was named in the bench for Aston Villa’s Premier League clash against Chelsea in March 2012 and after being part of the club’s U19 team that won the 2012-13 NextGen Series, went out on loan to gain experience.

Joined League One side Notts County in September 2013 and made his professional debut against MK Dons.

In December, he scored his first career goal in a 3-1 win over Gillingham.

Source: The Chase - Funniest Moments/YouTube

August 2014 – Martin O’Neill speaks to Grealish and his father

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirms he has spoken to Grealish and his father, Kevin, about his international future. After leaving the midfielder out of his squad for the friendly against Oman and Euro 2016 Qualifier against Georgia, O’Neill admits Grealish has asked for time to weigh up his options.

“I spoke to his father, I spoke to Jack,” O’Neill explained. ”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.”

August 2014 – Called-up to Ireland U21 squad

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future, Grealish is included in Noel King’s squad for Ireland’s final U21 qualifier against Germany.

“These are big decisions for any boy. He’s happy to play for us at this time and we’re happy to accommodate him,” King said.

He plays the full 90 minutes in 2-0 defeat in Halle.

October 2014 – Withdraws from U21 duty to concentrate on club

Jack Grealish Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

England U21 manager Gareth Southgate revealed he is keeping tabs on Grealish’s progress and the midfielder then confirms he will miss Ireland’s friendly against Norway to concentrate on training with Aston Villa.

After a newspaper report suggested he was ready to declare for Ireland, Grealish takes to Twitter to cast further doubt on his future.

“Some stuff in the papers today about me that I didn’t even no [sic] myself,” he tweeted.

Once again left omitted from U21 squad for Ireland’s winter friendlies against USA and Russia.

22 March 2015 – Wins FAI U21 Player of the Year award

Grealish’s family, including his Irish grandmother, are in attendance as he’s named U21 Player of the Year at the annual FAI international football awards.

He says he’ll be back playing for Ireland again.

“I spoke to Noel (King) at the start of the year and I said I was going to take a year out of international football this year and try and concentrate on my club football. I’ve had a good year at Villa and then hopefully next year I’ll be back playing again for Ireland.”

8 April 2015 – Impresses on first Premier League start

Grealish was handed a first Premier League start in Villa’s crucial game against QPR after making 11 substitute appearances. He started on the left of Tim Sherwood’s midfield and played 70 minutes in the dramatic 3-3 draw before being replaced by Joe Cole.

April 2015 – Stars at Wembley

Soccer - FA Cup - Semi Final - Aston Villa v Liverpool - Wembley Stadium Source: Adam Davy

Aston Villa stunned Liverpool at Wembley to reach the FA Cup final and Grealish was the star of the show for Sherwood’s side. More than a century after his great, great grandfather lifted the famous cup with Villa, Grealish was handed a start on the biggest afternoon of his young career.

April 2015 – Big names weigh in on debate

As well as Sherwood, Shay Given, Paul Scholes, Kenny Cunnigham, Kevin Kilbane, Richie Sadlier, John Giles, Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney and England manager Roy Hodgson had their say on who Grealish should represent.

Grealish’s Aston Villa team-mate Given admits the 20-year-old is ‘at a crossroads’ as the Football Association stepped up their interest.

June 2015 – Controversial holiday pictures emerge

Grealish was given a telling off by his club after a picture of him sprawled on a street after a night out in Tenerife surfaced on social media.

Aston Villa released a statement to apologise after the controversial photos while the club dealt with the matter internally.

August 2015 – The end is nigh

As Martin O’Neill faced the press again ahead of Ireland’s next set of Euro 2016 Qualifiers, he revealed he held further talks with Grealish and his father.

O’Neill admitted he expected a decision to be made ‘very soon’.

After missing the first few games of the season through injury, Grealish returned to the fold during Villa’s trip to Crystal Palace.

7 September 2015 – Hodgson breaks his silence

Soccer - FA Cup - Final - Arsenal v Aston Villa - Wembley Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

For the first time, England manager Roy Hodgson said he hoped Grealish would declare for the Three Lions but admitted he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for.

“I’m not 100% 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.”

13 September 2015 – First Premier League goal

On his 20th birthday, Grealish marked the occasion in style with his first league strike for Villa at Leicester. He then followed it up with another match-winning performance during Villa’s League Cup victory over Midlands rivals Birmingham City.

28 September 2015 – Declares for England

After months of speculation, Grealish announces who he’ll play international football for. Aston Villa broke the news with a Tweet from their official account before the player himself released a brief statement via his Twitter account.

“I have decided to give my allegiance to England. It was not an easy decision as Ireland has a special place with me through my family. However, I have decided to represent my country of birth.”

So that’s that done and dusted, although the fallout is set to continue.

We should focus on developing our own players – the reaction to Jack Grealish’s decision

‘It wasn’t an easy decision. Ireland has a special place with me’ – Grealish opts for England

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Ryan Bailey


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