Martin O’Neill has insisted he did not attempt to force Jack Grealish’s hand by offering him the chance to commit to the Republic of Ireland again.
Republic manager O’Neill revealed yesterday that the 19-year-old Aston Villa midfielder, who was born in Birmingham, has rejected the invitation to join up with the squad for next month’s friendly against England and the Euro 2016 qualifier with Scotland.
However, despite months of patient pursuit, during which assistant manager Roy Keane tried to persuade the teenager, Grealish is considering whether to commit his future to England. He said earlier this year that he would make his decision at the start of next season.
O’Neill initially accepted that stance but decided to try again after the teenager forced his way into the first team at Villa.
“I don’t think it’s an attempt to pre-empt anything,” he said. “I think Jack had mentioned before, in fairness to him, that he didn’t want to make a decision at that time. Again, my point was that then, since he wasn’t a regular member of the side, it seemed less important.
“I still think that bringing him into the squad for a week’s training and seeing how he gets on, obviously in an attempt to try to see that the FAI would actually look after him, there might have been something in that, but at the end of the day he has done well enough at Aston Villa to be thought of as a proper senior player.
“Jack just didn’t want to make his mind up at this stage. I don’t take it personally. He is pretty firm in what he wants to do and that’s fine.”
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