Speaking to Sky Sports during their coverage of England’s Nations League encounter with Switzerland on 9 June, Gary Neville had a bizarre dig at Jack Grealish, per quotes relaid by Birmingham Live.
Back in March, Gareth Southgate hinted that Grealish would have to be playing in the Premier League in order for him to receive an England call-up.
And following on from England’s defeat against the Netherlands last week, Aston Villa fans have since been calling for their star man to be included in the squad. However, a new debate surrounding the player has occurred.
Speaking about Declan Rice switching his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, Neville chose to attack Grealish, another player eligible for the same nation.
In quotes relaid by Birmingham Live, he declared that it was nonsense that a footballer should ask for assurances over their place in a national side.
Describing an incident that arose when he was among the Three Lions’ coaching setup, he said:
“There was a situation when I was coaching with England when the FA at the time were trying to win the services of Jack Grealish and he wanted meeting with managers, assurances and other such things. It’s nonsense all of that!
“I don’t believe in the idea that you have to persuade someone to play for your country or give them assurances. How can you give them assurances in sport? You have to play well.”
Given the season Grealish has had, Neville’s comments feel very mistimed and rather unusual in their tone.
As the former Manchester United man has said, you need to play well first in order to warrant a place in the squad.
Regardless of the talent you possess, you won’t get an international call-up unless you’ve performed well for your club, or already earned your keep at the highest level of the game.
When Neville was coaching England, though, Grealish’s maturity was not of the level it’s at now and that perhaps explains what happened in the past.
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Now a couple of years older, the attacking midfielder has matured greatly, becoming a leading light for his side as well as being given the captaincy.
With Villa now returning to the Premier League, there is every chance Grealish may find himself in the England senior team for the very first time.
It’s highly unlikely that he’ll demand assurances over his place now he’s matured both on and off the field, and the standard of his performances might just give Southgate plenty to ponder over ahead of Euro 2020.