"Monumental bollocks" - Richie Sadlier on Kevin Kilbane's comments about Declan Rice
"Are you saying we don't want that outcome now?"
Declan Rice won't be part of the Republic of Ireland's squad for next month's fixtures, and he may never feature for the national team again. Martin O'Neill told reporters on Monday in Dublin that the West Ham United defender has asked for more time to decide on his international future.
Rice has earned three caps for Ireland in friendlies this year, but as they weren't competitive games, he can still switch allegiance to England, the country of his birth.
O'Neill said that the London-native was approached by England about representing the country.
The 19-year-old is now "deliberating" his next move. If he had played for Ireland against Wales in Cardiff in the Uefa Nations League fixture, he would have been tied to O'Neill's side, as the match counts as a competitive international.
Rice's omission from the Ireland squad has, of course, caused a stir. While many feel that he is right to take his time to make a decision that will have such a profound impact on his career and the next 15-years of his life, others find it difficult to accept.
Former Ireland international Kevin Kilbane said he would rather Ireland were "ranked 150th in the world and never qualify again" than select someone who is unsure about their international allegiance.
I’d rather be ranked 150th in the world and never qualify again than have someone who has played, but needs time to THINK whether they should play for us again. Well done to MON for transparency. https://t.co/6oXlwXEpaP
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) August 27, 2018
Kilbane grew up in Preston but always identified as Irish. Both of his parents are from Ireland and he turned down the chance to represent England at underage level because he was determined to feature for Ireland. He ended up winning 110 caps for the country and played at the 2002 World Cup.
James McClean is another who doesn't appear happy with Rice's deliberation. The Stoke winger has played alongside Rice for Ireland, but echoed Kilbane's sentiments when he replied to his tweet.
However, unfortunately, it's not that simple for everyone. And the door shouldn't be closed on Rice because he needs time to make such a big decision.
McClean and Kilbane may have always had their heart set on representing the Republic of Ireland, but it's not always that straightforward for other players, including Rice. National identity is a complex concept and it's possible that Rice feels allegiance to both England, the country of his birth, and Ireland, where his grandparents are from.
Surely he should be granted some time to make up his mind? And if he does opt to play for Ireland, then the team benefits because they will have gained a potentially top-class player.
Richie Sadlier argued this point on Second Captains on Monday. The RTE pundit called Kilbane's comments "monumental bollocks" and said that Rice should be given time to decide.
"Can I respond to that?" Sadlier asked when host Eoin McDevitt read out Kilbane's comments.
"I think that’s bollocks."
"Monumental bollocks. You’d rather never qualify? I’m sure the point he’s making is, 'I would like players fully committed to playing for Ireland and that should be the base level,'" the former Millwall forward said.
"But allowing yourself a couple of weeks to think about it, to listen to all arguments, just maybe out of respect to Gareth Southgate, listen to your agent, listen to other family members, listen to whatever voices are in this conversation.
"Listen to them all, and at the end say, 'You know what, I'm going to stick to the thing that I always thought was the case. Now I know. There's no sense in my head that I have rushed this or panicked because I listened to everyone and in every scenario, this was the decision that made sense to me, so I’m going to make it. Give me the Ireland jersey, call me up'.
"Are you saying we don’t want that outcome now? Because he had that little bit of space? Surely not."
Sadlier also stressed that the decision isn't as clearcut as Kilbane and others are suggesting. There are a lot of factors at play, and if Rice was to make his decision based on football alone, unfortunately for Ireland, it would be hard to look beyond the English team.
"There's probably not a lot that Martin O’Neill can do at this stage," he said.
"We're in the dark a little bit here about the specifics. We know what’s out there in the public, but what I mean by specifics is, we don't know who is influencing Declan Rice. Maybe it's no-one, maybe it's his own thing. Maybe it's an agent or another family member or a senior club teammate that he thinks the world of.
"Or was it a Gareth Southgate pitch? Or a team from the FA? Or was he just sitting there over the summer, looking at the World Cup and it's purely a football thing at the moment.
"Forget career prospects, or notions about national identity or any of that stuff. (Rice could ask himself) 'Do I want to be part of a squad which went to the World Cup, got to the semi-final, one of the youngest squads at the tournament?' Or a Republic of Ireland squad where he is the only leading light in terms of young players coming through?
"World Cup semi-final versus 5-1 defeat in the playoff. There's a football argument to be made that’s a pretty straightforward one."
Sadlier also dismissed the idea that Rice is making a purely financial decision if he does choose to represent England.
"It's the country of his birth. So, it's not just a careerist thing or a mercenary or a commercial decision. He could be making the emotional decision to play for the country of his birth. That thought process doesn't need to be explained to anyone listening to this. We all would naturally want to play for the country of our birth. I think that has to be taken into consideration as well."
Ireland play Wales in Cardiff on September 6 in their first match in the new Nations League tournament. They then travel to Wroclaw to play Poland in a friendly on September 11. If Rice was in the squad, he would have been a certainty to start both games.
You can listen to the full Second Captains podcast here: