England: Too soon for Aston Villa parvenu to commit to Three Lions

Jack Grealish declined the opportunity to be part of Republic of Ireland's latest squad

Michael Lintorn recalls the tales of Wilfried Zaha and Carl Jenkinson in advising Jack Grealish not to rush his decision...

"As much as the media and the biennial car-window-flag-clippers bemoan England’s “international failings”, appearances at five straight World Cups and six of the past seven European Championships help the FA weight the coin-flip decision confronting such players in their favour."

When a footballer has the choice of two interested countries to represent, eight times out of nine they will understandably opt for the one that they perceive offers them a better chance of attending World Cups and continental tournaments.

As much as the media and the biennial car-window-flag-clippers bemoan England's "international failings", appearances at five straight World Cups and six of the past seven European Championships help the FA weight the coin-flip decision confronting such players in their favour.

Yet while they regularly succeed at seducing dual-nationality talents, the question is whether those recruits themselves prosper upon being officially branded with the Three Lions logo.

There are several examples to the contrary that Jack Grealish should appraise before committing to England, which many foresee the Aston Villa midfielder doing after turning down a place in the latest Republic of Ireland squad, despite lining up for the Boys in Green at three different age groups.

Wilfried Zaha was born in the Ivory Coast but was brought into the England fold at U19 level and was capped by the senior side just days after his 20th birthday, such was the determination to get him on board. Unfortunately, the Crystal Palace winger is approaching the two-year anniversary of his most recent cap, having only made it onto the pitch for a combined 20 minutes in his two outings.

Another player who made his England debut the same November 2012 day as Zaha against Sweden was right back Carl Jenkinson who, similarly to Grealish, had lined up for another nation at youth level - appearing for Finland U19 and U21.

Unlike Zaha, Jenkinson hasn't played a minute for England's first team since that evening in Stockholm, being overlooked even when impressing for West Ham this season, and finds his path to the squad, let alone the starting spot, blocked by Nathaniel Clyne and Kyle Walker.

Still, at least Jenkinson made it onto the pitch. Saido Berahino didn't get that far against Slovenia or Scotland last November when called up after scoring seven Premier League goals before the end of October. The subsequent rise of Harry Kane meant that he wasn't even included in the last squad, leading the country of his birth - Berundi - to reportedly invite him to reconsider his allegiance.

The Betfair Sportsbook has a market dedicated to Grealish's predicament, in which he is 1/2 to declare for England, compared to 6/4 for the Republic of Ireland. Both were initially 10/11 shots, but the social-media abuse that he has received from Irish fans has perhaps affected the odds.

Meanwhile, it is 7/1 that he scores for Aston Villa against Arsenal in the FA Cup final and 16/1 that he is named the man of that particular match.

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