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22nd Apr 2015

Leading UK journalist wants to end the “crazy” rule allowing Jack Grealish play for Ireland

Martin Samuel has gone off on one

Neil Treacy

In short, Martin Samuel thinks only England’s rejects should be allowed play for Ireland.

The Daily Mail columnist has lashed out in his regular column for the Mail, by calling for UEFA to “Abolish the crazy rules that allow Jack Grealish to play for the Republic of Ireland”.

The five-time SJA Sports Journalist of the Year has called for Grealish to be given no choice on what country he plays for, due to the fact that he’s good at football.

Samuel says that the 19-year-old who starred for Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final win against Liverpool at the weekend, could, and most importantly should, be a potential England star.

“The rules were intended to help those without a choice — unable to play for their country of birth, but good enough to represent that of their ancestors. Andy Townsend, born in Maidstone, wasn’t regarded highly by those in charge of England but was considered good enough to play for Ireland 70 times, through his Irish grandmother. Good luck to him — England’s loss was Ireland’s gain.

“But Grealish’s situation isn’t like that. The rules as applied in his case do not combat the absence of choice, they offer more choice, where none is necessary,” he says.

Samuel also has a pop at Irish scout Mark O’Toole, who tries to recruit Irish qualified players to play for Ireland.

The writer portrays O’Toole as if he is preying on unsuspecting young players, before sweeping them away before they know what’s happened, rather than someone who is simply performing the most basic element of scouting – identifying young talent.

Samuel says: “That was partly through his grandparents on his father’s side and also because the Irish employ a scout called Mark O’Toole, whose job it is to sweep up the best young players qualified to play for Ireland. That’s not the same as sweeping up the best young Irish players.

“So is it right that a national association operates as clubs do, recruiting the best young players in what is increasingly a free market. How long before there are secret inducements, promises, before agents are involved?”

Andy Townsend, widely regarded as an excellent player in his day, comes in for further treatment, with Samuel pretty much suggesting that the “Granny Rule” should only be allowed, if a player isn’t good enough to play for England. In short, England gets dibs, and Ireland get the dregs.

“And there would be little objection to a player such as Townsend, who was 25 when he got his first Ireland call-up, at a time when it was obvious he was unwanted by England.

“It is different for players like Grealish, who turned his back on England before he was old enough to sit a GCSE. This wasn’t opportunity; it was opportunism. Unnecessary and wrong and all too predictably destined to end in this unsightly tug of war.”

Samuel also decides that Grealish is English through and through, having heard his Brummie accent.

“Not many people had seen Jack Grealish play before Sunday, so even fewer had heard him speak. When he did, he sounded like Ozzy Osbourne. Not as broad maybe but he was, unmistakably, from Birmingham. So is his father, Kevin.”

That settles that, I suppose.

You can read the full column here.

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