A number of English born soccer players have discussed their decision to represent the Republic of Ireland at international level rather than their country of birth.
Players such as Mark Lawrenson, John Aldridge, Mick McCarthy, Andy Townsend, Jason McAteer, Steven Reid, Chris Hughton, Gary Breen and Lee Carsley all came from Irish families who had moved to England.
Although they were born in England they say that when they were growing up they felt Irish.
Cynics might say that they wouldn’t have managed to get into the England team, who regularly reach the later stages of international competitions. However, this wouldn’t have been the case for all of them.
Some would have certainly made the England squad and played for the first team plenty of times throughout their careers. Instead they chose to play for Ireland.
It is a decision that the promising English born youngster Jack Grealish will have to make in the near future.
The Aston Villa star has played for Ireland at Under 17, Under 18 and Under 21 level. However, he has held off committing his future to the Republic.
This has drawn criticism from some sections of Irish fans who say he should show more commitment. Others say that as he is only 19 years old it is reasonable to give him time to make what could be a huge decision for his future.
Once a player plays one competitive international match at senior level they become ineligible for all other countries for the rest of their career.
McAteer had this advice for Grealish: “If he doesn’t feel that he wants to play for Ireland because he’s English then play for England. When it’s all over, you don’t want to look back and have regrets.
“I thought about playing for England because I was asked but as soon as I was asked to play for Ireland, I wanted to play for Ireland. I felt I wanted to do that.
“I always remember Ronnie Whelan saying to be ‘it’ll be the best thing you ever did’ and I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got to thank him for that because it was the best 12 years of my life.”
While Ireland have sometimes been criticised for playing so many English born players, legendary manager Jack Charlton – himself a former England international – once gave a very strong defence of them.
He said: “Had it not been for the economic circumstances which forced their parents or grandparents to emigrate, they would have been born and reared in Ireland. Should they now be victimized and denied their heritage because of the whims of journalists? I think not.”
Take a look at the video below.
Do you think English born soccer stars should be allowed to represent Ireland? Tell us what you think in the comments section under the video.