Talksport presenter puts Martin O'Neill to the pin of his collar over Declan Rice and Jack Grealish 1 month ago

Talksport presenter puts Martin O'Neill to the pin of his collar over Declan Rice and Jack Grealish

Talksport ventured into a Jack Grealish, Declan Rice discussion on Wednesday and Martin O'Neill was put to the pin of his collar.

Talksport is a sports radio station in the UK that regularly airs and discusses the views of fans with their pundits and guests and on this occasion, a texter called Dermot sent in a question for O'Neill, a guest on the show, about Declan Rice and Jack Grealish.


Here was the text, and the discussion that followed.

Dermot: Does he accept any criticism as Ireland manager, regarding the fact that we lost out on Grealish and Rice to England, because he didn't give them either a full international cap, or even brought them on for a few minutes to keep them out of England's clutches?

Martin O'Neill: If you give me two minutes, I'll tell you exactly. Number one, you can't coerce players into becoming international players. He's actually not right about this, I played Declan Rice in three friendly games at senior level, he was only a young kid, he was terrific in the games.

It’s as simple as this, Declan Rice wanted to play for England. Do you think that Declan Rice now, at the minute, now going to play in the quarter final of the World Cup, he's still a young man. Do you think that he's regretting the decision?

He’s born in England, it really is as simple as this here. You can't coerce people. You can't just bring them into an international game, a competitive game where the minute they play a competitive match for the country, that that’s them announcing they’re going to be playing for them. That was never going to be the case.

That was never going to be the case, you can’t deceive people into playing these games. You cannot force them into that.

Jack Grealish was exactly the same. Jack Grealish came along early in my stages of international management. I go to see Jack Grealish, I go to see his dad. Jack Grealish was born in England.

And he did play underage for the Republic of Ireland, which he loved doing, but eventually when you have to make a decision, that decision was made by Jack Grealish and his father. His father's also English too, you might go back to heritage as well, but that’s what they wanted to do, and I’m not going to disavow them of that.


O'Neill seemed to have the discussion wrapped up. But that was when Simon Jordan, a business-man and former owner of Crystal Palace took him up on the language he'd used.

Simon Jordan: Coercing is a strange word Martin. I think Republic of Ireland fans would suggest convincing is a more appropriate word. Not coercing. Convincing. You're the Republic of Ireland manager, your gig is to get the best players, playing for that team and representing that country. The backdrop to what they do and don't want to do is a different discussion, but Republic of Ireland fans will say 'Martin, you had them in the palm of your hand.' Why couldn't you convince them?

22 March 2018; Manager Martin O'Neill and Declan Rice during a Republic of Ireland training session at Antalya Stadium in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill: Ok, well I don't think it would be a very difficult answer (for them.) They would do much better commercially for a start (playing for England). Number one. Number two, I was in Jack Grealish and his dad's company trying to convince them. And the same with Declan Rice and his parents - lovely people - but he had his mind made up.

Simon Jordan: But I find it strange as an Englishman, all this heritage, all these values set, all this end-game destination, yet they were still prepared, specifically Declan, to play in friendly destinations for another country. I find that strange. Because they were playing the angles, and seeing which was best.

Martin O'Neill: You may well do. But I remember this talking to Declan...we'll use the word convincing rather than coerce. I had the inability to convince Declan Rice to play for the Republic of Ireland. Has he regretted that decision?

Simon Jordan: No he won't have. But Republic of Ireland fans will have regretted not having the opportunity to have him play for them?

Martin O'Neill: Of course, he did play three international games for us. You can't do much more...

Simon Jordan: Would you have been able to get him to play in a full international game for Ireland, that would have excluded him from England? Is it a moral dilemma for you?

Martin O'Neill: I wouldn't have done that. Please, I don't want to take the moral high ground. But number one, I wouldn't have done it. Number two: Declan Rice would have been aware of that rule, so he wouldn't have done it.

Watch the full discussion below.