Jake Clarke-Salters recent indication that he would be open to play for Ireland inevitably raised that occasional debate about the recruitment of potential ‘granny rulers’
The QPR defender’s interview with The Athletic was a hybrid of a ‘come and get me plea’ with an ‘if it suits me’ vibe which has understandably raised questions about his motives. Many will query the timing of this announcement given the fact that for the first time in 14 years, Clarke-Salter is no longer a Chelsea player and also due to turn 25 in September. Surely if his motives were to wear green, he would have signaled this by now?
Born in 1997 in Carshalton in London, Clarke-Salter bounced between the youth systems of Chelsea and Sutton United before embarking on six loan spells commencing in 2016 with Bristol Rovers, Sunderland, Vitesse, Birmingham City (two spells) and Coventry City among the clubs he built experience with. A solitary league appearance for Chelsea as an 18-year-old in 2016 and an under-20 World Cup win with England in 2017 completes his interesting CV thus far.
In 2019 at the tail-end of his loan spell with Vitesse in the Netherlands, Chelsea’s famed sister club, Clarke-Salter captained the England under-21’s at the European Championships in Italy. This side contained ex-teammates Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham as well as other Premier League starts such as Phil Foden, James Maddison, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. It shows the esteem he was held in within the English youth ranks and perhaps the expectations of the players.
In an interview with The Mirror in 2017, former Chelsea captain John Terry tipped Clarke-Salter to replace him, drawing comparisons with himself and the then 19-year-old.
“Jake has a great attitude. I remember watching him a couple of years ago being in control of the game and a really vocal player. He reminds me a bit of myself.”
What is another great testament to the Londoner’s attitude and reputation, is the fact that his former coach during his early days at Chelsea, Michael Beale has trusted him to be part of his project. Clarke-Salter was seemingly on the way to Coventry after an impressive loan spell and there was disappointment within the club when no permanent deal materialised. In their end of season rating, The Coventry Telegraph who are the closest source to the club described defender as ‘largely impressive’ but did cite his injury issues.
With nothing but glowing endorsements, it would seem foolish for Stephen Kenny and indeed Irish fans to not stay open to the idea of Clarke-Salter representing Ireland should he impress for QPR. Additionally, from a practical perspective, Clarke-Salter is a left-footed centre-back who is has by enlarge played in back threes throughout his career which would offer balance and additional leadership to Kenny’s preferred formation and system. Ireland tend to line out with three right-footed centre-backs and having a left-footer option could enhance the expansiveness of Kenny’s team.
Despite what may have come across to some as a disingenuous interest in playing for Ireland, the player did state that his family would encourage him should he declare and also the fact that he does have genuine Irish heritage needs to be respected. Josh Cullen and Callum Robinson represented England at underage level and have shown nothing but commitment since switching allegiances and are now firm fan favourites. After all, a declaration does not necessarily mean a call-up or guaranteed games, especially in a position that Ireland are stacked with talent.
Before fans draw conclusions on Jake Clarke-Salter, they should research the high regard he is held in and consider the balance and leadership he would provide Stephen Kenny. In an age where many countries take advantage of the Granny Rule to a higher extent than Ireland, noses should not be turned up at any player who could enhance the player pool and create a healthy competition for places.