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Paul Scholes - I could have played for Ireland

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Scholes is a little bit Irish, but not quite enough
Scholes is a little bit Irish, but not quite enough

Manchester United and England great Paul Scholes has revealed that his career could have had a very different tint to it - as he had a chance to commit his international future to the Republic of Ireland.

Scholes played 66 times for England and has been widely hailed as one of the greatest English players of his generation, but he revealed in his Independent column that he had choices when it came to his international loyalties.

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish will soon have to make a decision on on whether he wants to play on the biggest stages for England or the Republic of Ireland, with Scholes confirming he had a similar call at the start of his international career.

"I had the same options as Jack Grealish when it came to international football," wrote Scholes. 

"In fact I could have played for Northern Ireland as well as the Republic. On my mum Marie’s side, my Nana was from the Republic of Ireland and my Granddad was from the north.

"Lots of families in Manchester have strong Irish connections, but it never occurred to me to play for anyone other than England."

Grealish has taken a 'year off' from international football as he weighs up his options, with Scholes confused by that move from the 21-year-old.

"I don’t understand is why he has taken time off," said Scholes. "You need to start playing international football first before you think about taking time off.

"I guess it is about giving himself time to choose between Ireland and England. The Republic will always need him more but England is where he will play at the higher level. The fact that he is prepared to take his time probably tells you he is a confident boy."

Meanwhile, Scholes has backed Eden Hazard to be crowned as the PFA Player of the Year at an awards dinner in London on Sunday, but he does not understand why another of his Chelsea team-mates did not make the shortlist for the top prize.

"When I scan down the list of six nominees I do wonder how John Terry found himself omitted," he added.

"Terry has been the key figure in the team that will win the title this year; a key figure because Chelsea are essentially a defensive team.

"He plays in every game and he is deserving of a place on the shortlist of the PFA Player of the Year award, although he would not be my choice to win it on Sunday night.

"Had I still a ballot paper in this particular election, my vote would go to Eden Hazard."