O'Neill: Stephen Ireland needs to decide on his international future this summer
Martin O’Neill feels it’s time that Stephen Ireland made his intentions clear about a possible return to the international fold with the Irish team.
The Republic of Ireland manager says that the 27-year-old says that, now that Ireland has secured his long-term future at Stoke City, he needs to make a decision this summer about appearing for his country again.
Ireland has not played for the Boys in Green since the infamous Grannygate affair in 2007, when he left Steve Staunton’s squad under controversial circumstances.
"You either feel you want to come back or you don't. It's as simple as that," O'Neill told the Irish Independent.
"This is not something where you think, 'I will come back in October time'. Absolutely, this is it.
"The contract has been resolved so he has to be in a reasonably positive frame of mind.
"I will hopefully point out that if our choice may be sometimes limited, nobody is going to cakewalk into the team," stressed O'Neill before touching on how other players in the squad might react to his inclusion.
"At the meeting, there is always a bit of a wry smile when Stephen is mentioned," he said. "But the boys, listen, they all think he can play.
"I think it would be relatively easy for me as it's new. It might be a different issue if I had been involved in the first process that you're talking about (his departure in 2007).
"At the end of the day, if the players thought someone could come in and help them, and thought they were good enough to do that, I think that is all they would really worry about."
O’Neill went on to echo Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert’s assertion that young midfielder Jack Grealish still has a long way to go before forcing his way into his plans on a regular basis.
He does feel, however, that Grealish could make the breakthrough.
"Jack has been at Notts County on loan and he's definitely got ability," said O'Neill. "And these are the type of players that you hope will eventually come through."
O’Neill will take in Villa’s final Premier League game of the season against Tottenham amid speculation that he has earmarked Spurs striker Harry Kane – as well as full-back Kyle Naughton – as a possible future Ireland international.
"There's a possibility of something," said O'Neill, cryptically. "But it's only at the early stages."