There's a great noise surrounding Jack Grealish following his heroic performance at Wembley last Sunday and with it he has announced his arrival to the footballing world. The hubbub is only set to increase with an impending decision on his burgeoning international future: will he represent England or Ireland?
The stats don't lie, and neither did the viewing. A key pass leading to Villa's equaliser, swiftly followed by an assist early in the second half and some examples of remarkable close control capped a wonderful afternoon for Jack and the B6 faithful alike last Sunday. His match stats have been remarkable; his lowest pass completion across his three starts for the club is 92.3%.
Following alleged interest from Chelsea and Manchester City, Grealish signed a four-year deal in October worth £20,000 a week and he is expected to pledge his international future before the start of next season.
'Jack has to play a few more times for Aston Villa before he needs to make that decision. It's up to Jack where he wants to go. What I've got to do is make sure he's got that decision to make.' Tim Sherwood's stance was clearly outlined in the Birmingham Mail.
Born in Solihull to an English mother and Birmingham-born father he has been a Villa season ticket holder since the age of 4 but qualifies for Irish international duty through his paternal grandparents and has represented them from U15 level to U21 level. The attraction of playing for Ireland includes a more significant role in the team and a near guarantee of starting matches. However, if assurances over his development are met; the likelihood of inclusion in senior squads and subsequent game time, then the suspicions are that he will play for England.
England manager Roy Hodgson and U-21 manager Gareth Southgate are on red alert following his performance at Wembley, and the pair will undoubtedly hold talks with him imminently. Hodgson and Southgate will point towards the new St George's Park National Football Centre, combined with the FA's focus on bringing through the next generation of English talent and in all honesty it would be surprising if Grealish chose not to represent England. Likewise, he has seen his teammate Fabian Delph cement his place as an England starter through regular football for Aston Villa and he will be confident of doing the same, especially given his current manager's prowess for developing younger players.
Grealish turned down the chance to represent England 17s at the age of 15, presumably, in the belief that he would see more game time playing for Ireland. Last year, the pendulum swung the other way, Grealish turned down the chance of a senior call up following talks with Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O'Neill. His decision to keep his options open looks set to be rewarded, and his reluctance to attain his first Irish cap is not insignificant.
Years of wearing the green of Ireland are sure to have left their mark on Jack but in reality, he has made a handful of appearances at each level and his hiatus of representing the Irish U21s to focus on cementing a place in the Villa starting line up is another indicator of his priorities; playing football at the highest level possible, which means a first cap for England looks likely.
'It's going to be a difficult decision, it's completely up to Jack as well. There is a friendly coming up in June - you never know he could play 45 minutes for Ireland and 45 minutes for England.' Quipped his Dad in the Irish Independent, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, whilst revelling in his son's sweat soaked shirt from the semi-final on Sunday.
Before he has to make that decision, Grealish will be focused on guaranteeing Premier League survival for his beloved club, as well as, hopefully, delivering the FA Cup back to the Midlands; something his great-great Grandfather, Billy Garraty, managed 110 years ago with a man of the match performance in a 2-0 win against Newcastle.