Granny’s Rule – England’s Passport Players
Chief sports writer for the Daily Mail, Martin Samuel, has sparked a storm of controversy this week.
He produced an article stating that Aston Villa’s wonder kid Jack Grealish should not be allowed play for the Republic of Ireland because he wasn’t born there and that the Granny Rule should be abolished.
A penny for the thoughts of the myriad of footballers all over the world who have gone on to proudly represent the nation of their parents or their grandparents but, anyway, here’s a list of players who would never have donned the Three Lions on their shirt if Samuel had had his way.
One would imagine that the current young jewel of the English crown would have been born in a posh Kent village with a silver spoon in his mouth but, actually, Raheem Sterling originally hails from Kingston, Jamaica and didn’t move to England until he was five.
Despite only arriving in the UK after spending a good portion of his youth in a foreign country, Samuel has written thousands of words on the talented Sterling, one article demanded he was jettisoned straight into the starting English XI.
John Barnes was a Warwickshire-born footballer who played as an outside left for several Football League clubs in the 1920s and 30s. Oh no, hold on, that’s the John Barnes that Martin Samuel probably would approve of.
The John Barnes we’re talking about was born in 1963 in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, and won 79 more caps for England than his early 20th century namesake.
To complete the Jamaican trio, Luther Blissett moved to England as a six year-old and went on to make 14 international appearances but failed to add to his debut hat trick haul. It’s the stuff of urban legend that AC Milan signed the striker from Watford in 1983 having confused him with Watford teammate Barnes.
Blissett’s failure in Italy may have been down to cultural differences more than anything. “No matter how much money you have here”, Blissett famously complained about Italy, “you can’t seem to get Rice Krispies”.
Terry Butcher, the Singaporean
Terry Butcher was so patriotic that the iconic image of him is sporting a blood-soaked England shirt, after completing a World Cup qualifier in Sweden in 1989 with a massive gash to his forehead that an impromptu bandage and stiches couldn’t stem.
Except the future England captain was born 31 years earlier in Singapore. Butcher’s father was a signalman in the Royal Navy, stationed in Singapore, and he spent his first two years in the Southeast Asian city-state. The tough defender went on to win 77 England caps and has since stated that if he’d had the image rights to the aforementioned pictures of his bloody jersey he’d be a millionaire by now.
Owen Hargreaves, the Canadian
Colin and Margaret Hargreaves emigrated to Canada in the early 1980s and it wasn’t long before their youngest son, Owen, was born. Owen played football with Calgary Foothills, who are a football team rather than topographical phenomenon, but didn’t really play the sport seriously until he was 15 years old.
Hargreaves was snapped up by Bayern Munich, where he went on to win four league titles and the Champions League with the German giants. He was all set for an international career with Wales, his mother’s maiden country, before a last-minute switch to the England under-21 set up. He made his full international debut in 2001, becoming the first English player to represent the country without having lived there before.