Eng­land end long wait for Gre­al­ish call

Villa cap­tain added to se­nior squad for Na­tions League ties Rash­ford ‘gutted’ af­ter pulling out along with Winks

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By John Percy and Chris Bas­combe

As­ton Villa cap­tain Jack Gre­al­ish’s pro­longed wait for se­nior Eng­land recog­ni­tion is fi­nally over af­ter he was sum­moned into the squad for the first time yes­ter­day.

Gre­al­ish joined up with Gareth South­gate and the squad as the na­tional head coach re­acted to two sig­nif­i­cant with­drawals ahead of the Na­tions League games against Ice­land and Den­mark.

Manch­ester United striker Mar­cus Rash­ford and Tot­ten­ham mid­fielder Harry Winks were re­leased from in­ter­na­tional duty yes­ter­day.

The Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion de­ferred ex­pla­na­tions for the duo’s ab­sence to their re­spec­tive clubs, al­though Rash­ford has re­cently been trou­bled by an an­kle in­jury.

For Gre­al­ish, pa­tience has fi­nally been re­warded. There was a grow­ing clam­our for the 24-year-old to be given a chance, es­pe­cially af­ter his Premier League per­for­mances were so in­flu­en­tial in Villa re­tain­ing their top-flight sta­tus last sea­son.

Five years af­ter choos­ing to rep­re­sent Eng­land hav­ing fea­tured for the Repub­lic of Ire­land ju­nior teams, Gre­al­ish could now earn his first cap wear­ing the Three Lions. Gre­al­ish last night tweeted it was “a dream come true” to re­ceive his first se­nior call-up while he ad­mit­ted he thought it “was go­ing to hap­pen five years ago” when he de­cided to switch al­le­giances.

He told The Sun: “I don’t want to be on the out­side look­ing in again. But I know for that to be the case I’ve got to make a good im­pres­sion. It’s been a long time com­ing but this is some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do.”

He has rep­re­sented Eng­land at un­der-21 level, and played un­der South­gate dur­ing a vic­to­ri­ous cam­paign at the 2016 Toulon Tour­na­ment. Gre­al­ish had hoped South­gate’s pro­mo­tion to se­nior man­ager would en­hance his chances. Speak­ing in 2016 about his un­der-21 ex­pe­ri­ences, he said: “I’m try­ing to keep my place with the 21s and then try to get into the first team. I feel I can go and play for Eng­land. That’s def­i­nitely my tar­get. That’s my dream.”

De­spite those hopes, the Villa cap­tain was un­able to im­press suf­fi­ciently to force his way into the squad when ev­ery­one was avail­able, and was sur­pris­ingly over­looked again when South­gate made his ini­tial se­lec­tion last Tues­day with the Eng­land coach sug­gest­ing com­pe­ti­tion for places in at­tack­ing ar­eas was the big­gest ob­sta­cle.

“I’m grown up enough to un­der­stand that play­ers are go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed if they’re not

se­lected,” he said. “But you can’t com­pare se­lect­ing Kalvin [Phillips] with se­lect­ing Jack – it’s a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion. Jack’s not a de­fen­sive pivot. In my view, he’s a winger or a No10. We have fan­tas­tic com­pe­ti­tion for places in that area of the pitch. I just see oth­ers be­ing ahead of Jack at the mo­ment.”

Now the loss of Rash­ford and Winks has pre­sented a chance. Given how long he has had to wait, Gre­al­ish is un­der no il­lu­sions about the need to make an in­stant im­pres­sion in train­ing and in com­pet­i­tive ac­tion should he fea­ture.

While the Villa man cel­e­brated his call-up, there was dis­ap­point­ment for those forced out.

Rash­ford said on so­cial me­dia that he was still seek­ing match fit­ness. United are at the start of their pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tions fol­low­ing an ex­tended cam­paign be­cause of their Europa League in­volve­ment.

“Gutted,” wrote Rash­ford on his Twit­ter page. “Never want to let this team down, but these fix­tures just came a lit­tle too soon. I tried my best, but I have to fo­cus on start­ing the sea­son at my strong­est for club and coun­try. Good luck boys, I’ll be cheer­ing you on from home.”

Mean­while, Uefa has out­lined plans in the event of Na­tions League matches be­ing af­fected by Covid-19.

The Eng­land squad un­der­went test­ing for coro­n­avirus upon con­ven­ing, and it can take up to 24 hours for the re­sults. Uefa’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee ruled that matches can go ahead as long as a na­tional squad have 13 play­ers avail­able, in­clud­ing at least one goal­keeper.

If that is not the case, and the match can­not be resched­uled, there will be a rul­ing by Uefa’s con­trol, ethics and dis­ci­plinary body on where re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ing to play the fix­ture lies.

Any coun­try blamed for the post­pone­ment would be forced to for­feit the match. If nei­ther na­tion was deemed re­spon­si­ble, lots would be drawn to de­cide be­tween a 1-0 win for ei­ther side and a goal­less draw.

Eng­land meet Ice­land in Reyk­javik on Satur­day, be­fore trav­el­ling to Copen­hagen to play Den­mark on Tues­day.

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