SportSoccer

Grealish offered no assurance over England future

Grealish walked away from a career with Ireland
Grealish walked away from a career with Ireland

Jack Grealish has been offered no assurances over his future role in the England set-up, despite earning a maiden call-up to Gareth Southgate's Under-21s squad having snubbed the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old is set to represent the Young Lions for the first time in Toulon, in a tournament that begins this week, following last year's decision to switch allegiance from Ireland, whom he played for at under-17, under-18 and under-21 level, to end of a tug of war regarding his international future.

Negative headlines off the field and a season of struggle at boyhood club Aston Villa, who lost every league game in which Grealish appeared in last season, have tempered the hype surrounding the midfielder who impressed so much in an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley last season.

And while Southgate is thankful that Grealish has chosen the country of his birth, he admits the talent at under-21 level means he can provide no guarantees over a place in his team, or even senior boss Roy Hodgson's squad, moving forward.

"We are sort of rewarding his commitment to coming across from Ireland and he knows that there is a lot of competition for places in the area of the pitch that he plays," Southgate stated.

"Like all of the players that have gone on, there's opportunity there now. I'm aware that he's not had as much game-time as he would ideally like coming into this. There's ability there and we've got to create an environment to go and play and enjoy his football.

"It's really difficult with any young player. There are lots of players in our system, under-17s, under-19s, who have the opportunity to play for two or three countries.

"We can create an opportunity but it's always about how they play and progress. Maybe at a club you can create a plan but the competition for places at international level is so high."

While Grealish's antics away from the pitch have stunted his development at Villa Park, with previous boss Remi Garde banishing him from first-team training in November after he was pictured in a nightclub following a 4-0 defeat to Everton, Southgate revealed he was impressed by the midfielder's appetite to feature for the under-21s when the two spoke.

"It's been a tough season as a club which is painful for me to see," said the former Villa defender.

"The thing that pleased me when I went to meet him was the smile, the enthusiasm to be involved, the desire to take up the opportunity. It's a big commitment.

"He's a player that we know, towards the end of last season, that there's ability there and he can have an impact.

"However, I've also got to be fair to the lads that are with us and have been with us right through; there's also a lot of ability in that group."