Jack Grealish has once again been left out by Gareth Southgate for England’s upcoming Nations League games with Iceland and Denmark.
The Aston Villa captain enjoyed his most-potent campaign throughout 2019/20 having scored double figures (10) for the very first time, while registering six assists.
The No.10 continued to be Dean Smith’s leading light and, in true Grealish fashion, the play-maker had the final say on the last game of last season to carry Villa over the survival line with a strike at West Ham.
Grealish, 24, switched his allegiance to England five years ago after representing the Republic of Ireland at under-16, 17 and under-21 level, winning youth-team player of the year for Ireland back in March 2015.
Speaking to the Times back in 2016, Villa’s captain – a former Gaelic football player – said: “When I was 15, I went to England trials and I collapsed. I was just nervous. I don’t usually get nervous but I collapsed. I told them I was fine. I was desperate to stay on but they said: ‘No, you’ve got to go home.’
“Then Ireland called me up. I played with Ireland, loved it, loved all the lads, the coaching staff, and you get treated well. England didn’t call me so I carried on playing for Ireland. But a year later England called me. Kenny Swain rang. I said: ‘I’m enjoying playing for Ireland.’ So I stayed there. But the older I got, I put things into perspective. My grandparents are Irish. But I’m English, I was born here, my parents were born here.”
Then-Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson was desperate to have the youngster on board with England, though, and the star from Solihull became part of Southgate’s under-21s side, featuring in the successful Toulon Tournament alongside Ben Chilwell, Jordan Pickford, Nathan Redmond, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and current Villa pair Kortney Hause and Matt Targett.
“Our team was so together,” Grealish said of his time with England’s under-21s, “and that’s partly because of Gareth. He gives all the boys confidence. I feel in the future I can go and play for England. That’s definitely my target. That’s my dream.”
Fast-forward to this season and Grealish has been left out once more and, previously, missed out on Southgate’s squad back in November – that’s despite England’s head coach purposely watching Villa’s main man in games against Man City away and Brighton at home.
Southgate said back then: “He’s a very good player. I’ve watched him closely this season. I thought he played very well against Brighton although Brighton had 10 men for 55 minutes which was a big influence on that game. The reality of that is he’s up against Sterling, Rashford, Hudson-Odoi, Sancho in those wide areas. I know he can play as a No.8 but that’s not where Villa have played him in the last six or seven weeks where they’ve been getting their results. Competition in that area is really high-level. They’re all good players.