Declan Rice: Irish blood, English heart

Declan Rice has done nothing wrong. He has nothing to apologise for or be ashamed of, he has broken no rules. Neither has his family, West Ham, or even = and it hurts to say this - his agent.

If there is any fault to be levelled, and I believe there certainly is, it is the bigwigs of international football at UEFA and FIFA who are to blame. Not England. Certainly not Ireland.

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The international bodies are the ones who have mangled, manipulated and contrived a set of regulations to suit themselves, the national associations, which allows FAs to poach and steal young talent to suit their own ambitions.

This is nothing new the world over. France won the World Cup with 17 players in their squad who were immigrants, who qualified for other countries. And there were 35 French-born players in other World Cup squads. Morocco had 13 and Tunisia seven.

My view on this is that the rule about competitive internationals should be scrapped. It gives just one more chance for a big country to see how a lad plays at the top level before nicking him.

If you play a full international, that should be it. But this has nothing to do with Declan Rice. He has had to make difficult decisions, along with his family and agent, to make the very most of his career. The rules have been continually altered over decades, but now they are clear.

If you play a competitive international, you are tied. It's been a tough decision. Declan's father Sean clearly wanted his lad to stay with Ireland, the boy's grand parents Margaret and Jack hail from Douglas, Co.Cork. Hence Rice's qualification.

But he was born in Kingston. He has been through the Irish system, 23 matches, and been nurtured by them. And England didn't want to know while he was in Chelsea's academy before being released.

I sense an astute agent here; he's got the lad a six-year contract at West Ham and England soon knew all about Rice's heritage. And this is going to keep on happening.

John Cross from the Mirror made this point on Sunday Supplement. There are more and more second and third generation kids now throughout the UK who qualify elsewhere in the British Isles.

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And for Ireland, social and economic movement is more prevalent than ever before, these past few decades have seen to that. Families can move so much easier now.

There are 870,000 Irish living in the UK, and it is estimated that there are six million in the UK who have at least one Irish grandparent. That includes my two sons. It's 14 million with an Irish great grand parent.

There are 609,700 Welsh in England, 250,000 northern Irish, 750,000 Scots. And obviously many, many more with grandparents from the old country.You do the maths, there are so many second and third generation children from these families, all with complex mixed heritage.

It did annoy me a bit that the FA of Ireland got so much stick about this situation. And I found it odd that Martin Samuel of the Mail singled them out with his 'the Irish make kids decide before the take GCSEs.

'This was jumped on as proof of some sort of under-handedness'. Eh, no. the Irish work under the same rules as everyone else. They have a department that searches through English academies for possible due nationals. So do the northern Irish, the Welsh and Scots. And so do England.

England, with a Premier League packed full of foreigners, desperately need to find young talent from other sources. And Gareth Southgate took Rice to St.Georges' Park to give him the big sales pitch.

Let's face it, if players could only play for the country of their birth, John Barnes, Raheem Sterling and Luther Blissett would have had no option but Jamaica and Terry Butcher would have been left with Singapore. Owen Hargreaves was born in Canada and Cyrille Regis hails from French Guyana.

England have some history in this, too. So when Wales, the Irish countries and Scotland do the same, why should they be vilified? I can't recall a time when Under 23 internationals tied a player to a country, and it wasn't until 1950 that England finally entered the World Cup - the European Nations Cup didn't start until 1958.

Before that all games were friendlies, if you can call the Home Internationals that, and FIFA did. Then you were picked for your country, and played for them. No jiggery pokery then.

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Since then rules have been modified to allow FAs around the world, to poach back players who had slipped through the net. Or for the smaller nations, the chance to find players with duel nationality to bolster their squads. Without the latter there would be no point in international football, it just would not be competitive enough.

FIFA and UEFA derive all their money from meaningful international tournaments, if they were not decent contests the whole structure would collapse. Smaller countries have to be allowed to search for second and third generation players born abroad.

I have heard the notion "Born in England so he plays for England" too often these past few weeks. It's nonsense, the world is a much smaller place now, people move around. Nationality, mixed certainly, is so much more complicated than that.

The cause is economic migration, something obviously very strong inside the British Isles. If the Republic of Ireland - population 4.1million - could only select players born in Ireland, they might as well pack up now.

The same for Wales (population three million), Scotland (5.4 million) and Northern Irish (population 1.8 million). From all those countries there has been sustained migration to England for decades. In particular to London and the south, where there is work and finances far greater than can be earned staying at home.

England, with 55 million, does not have the same problem, although internally there is a drain south from the north east, north west in particular. My cousin lives in Runcorn and works in Westminster, others see the riches of the south too tempting.

As for the Irish, Welsh, Scots and northern Irish, millions head for the English south. So young families will produce children with Irish blood and English hearts - just as Morrissey's song of the same name explained duel heritage.

That's why Declan Rice was born in Kingston to an Irish father, who had two Irish parents. The lad is half-English, but until recently his heart and love was Ireland. But I refuse to accept that his choice to try his luck with England was much more than a desire to give his career a real boost, cash and exposure.

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And I don't blame him one bit. He may well have won 100 caps with Ireland, but how many major finals would be have played in? He is entitled to change, to chose England at this stage, not even the Irish deep down blame him.

He has a brilliant career ahead of him, Irish blood but a big beating English heart. So he should grab with both hands every chance of enhancing his future. Because the rules allow it. And because big and small countries can both benefit for their own reasons, I can't see those rules being changed.

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