SAMI MOKBEL: Jamaica could offer Mason Greenwood fresh chance

SAMI MOKBEL: England have always doubted Mason Greenwood’s maturity… now Jamaica could offer the striker a fresh international chance

  • Man United confirmed on Monday that Mason Greenwood will leave the club 
  • It comes as the forward has been linked with a move to several new teams 
  • Jamaica could now offer the striker a fresh chance to play international football

Mason Greenwood and England: it’s complicated. When it comes to his ability, opinions at St George’s Park are unanimous. He is the obvious heir to Harry Kane’s No 9 shirt, a generational talent.

That scenario is a world away now, of course. Greenwood the footballer, superb. Greenwood the man, now that’s where things are problematic.

The forward’s journey through the England ranks was riddled with concerns over immaturity. There was always a feeling he required greater attention than other players.

In the autumn of 2021, head coach Gareth Southgate and technical director John McDermott booked an appointment to see Greenwood, members of his family and Manchester United officials amid plans to reintegrate him into the senior squad.

Southgate had moved on from his decision to send Greenwood home in shame following the Nations League win over Iceland in September 2020 after he and Phil Foden brought two women back to the team hotel.

Manchester United confirmed on Monday that Mason Greenwood (pictured) would be leaving the club

Greenwood’s last outing for United came in a home win over West Ham in January 2022

Greenwood had been unable to train with his team-mates after he was suspeneded in January 2022

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The England boss realises young players make mistakes, but provided they show good intentions — which Greenwood is said to have done — then Southgate is keen to draw a line under any episode. Based on football alone then it was a no-brainer: Greenwood was back in. However, Southgate and McDermott left the meeting agreeing not to select him after all parties felt that was best.

Southgate and his staff pay careful attention to the characters they accept into the England camp. Will the player fit in? Will they disrupt the culture? How will they react if they aren’t playing? Similar conversations have been had over Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in the past.

The meeting with Greenwood was, in part, used to gauge those factors — but also to present him with a plan to select him as a squad member rather than an automatic starter. The fact he wasn’t then selected is telling. The FA’s relationship with Greenwood’s camp, in particular father Andrew, is said to be awkward.

‘They thought there would be a lot of attention around him coming into the England squad — and if he wasn’t going to play then they were not sure if that was a good idea,’ said a source.

Yet even beyond that meeting, Southgate continued to contemplate an England future with Greenwood in it.

We also shouldn’t forget that Greenwood had been included in the provisional Euro 2020 squad before pulling out with an unspecified injury. There were suspicions about that injury at the time.

Greenwood had been included in the provisional Euro 2020 squad before pulling out with an unspecified injury. 

An initial World Cup 2022 squad planning meeting included him as a candidate who sources indicate was almost certain to go to Qatar. England were looking at selecting Greenwood for the March 2022 fixtures against Ivory Coast and Switzerland with a view to reintegrating him back into the fold.

His arrest in January of that year for attempted rape brought an abrupt end to those plans.

It was a blow to England who viewed Greenwood as the prime candidate to step in for Kane if he were to be injured. 

Southgate admires Greenwood’s speed of thought, the way he is so comfortable with popping up in different areas of the pitch. 

He believed he could play as a like-for-like replacement for Kane, but could also play wide on either flank. He is a creator of goals and a lethal finisher. He was special — and Southgate knew it.

Now, a return to international football is the least of Greenwood’s concerns. Finding a new club after United announced on Monday that they would be severing ties with their academy graduate is the priority. 

But if — and it’s a big if — Greenwood can get his playing career back on track while also proving he is rehabilitated, then he could have an international career ahead of him.

Whether that’s with England remains to be seen. There is an interest in him from Jamaica, for whom Greenwood is eligible. Despite having played a competitive fixture for England, FIFA rules allow the forward to switch to Jamaica from next month.

The FA’s talent identification staff do rigorous work around the retention of players who have dual nationalities. 

When they got wind of Jamaica’s overtures in 2021, the FA sprang into action. They spoke to the family and other intermediaries to ascertain how serious Jamaica’s interest was and whether Greenwood was interested.

By the end of their enquiries, the FA were satisfied that Greenwood still wanted a career with England. The feeling was that the family were using Jamaica to earn him a more prominent place in Southgate’s plans.

But the fact he was recently photographed in a Reggae Boyz tracksuit has set tongues wagging again. Not that Southgate is likely to be influenced by any opportunity for Greenwood to switch allegiance.

Whether he will play again for England remains to be seen but there is an interest in him from Jamaica, for whom Greenwood is eligible

Gareth Southgate will probably say any conversation around selecting Greenwood is hypothetical when he is asked about the striker ahead of next month’s internationals

It is not a decision Southgate will likely have to make, with the expectation that next summer’s Euros in Germany will be his last tournament in charge.

Southgate will probably say any conversation around selecting Greenwood is hypothetical when he is asked about the striker ahead of next month’s internationals. But the England boss is a principled man; the public mood will have registered.

But he is also a man who believes in rehabilitation and second chances. Foden, Harry Maguire and Ivan Toney have all felt his support in the eye of their own personal storms.

Whether Greenwood deserves to benefit from Southgate’s forgiving nature is an altogether different question.


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