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Why I'm rejecting England to stay with Northern Ireland, explains Leeds keeper Peacock-Farrell

 

By Graham Luney

Bailey Peacock-Farrell has underlined his commitment to Northern Ireland by revealing he rejected a chance to switch allegiance to England.

The 21-year-old from Darlington has opted to remain loyal to Northern Ireland and manager Michael O'Neill despite interest from the English camp.

Peacock-Farrell, who began his career at Middlesbrough before moving to Leeds in 2013, has secured the number one jersey at Elland Road and he could make his senior competitive Northern Ireland debut in the Uefa Nations League clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday.

Since being asked to join a Northern Ireland training camp in 2017, the talented stopper has welcomed the support of O'Neill and he's not prepared to jump ship now.

When questioned on whether an opportunity to play for England had ever surfaced, he said: "The conversations have already happened.

"I've had several chats with the England goalkeeping coaches. One rang me the other week in fact, but I'm loyal to Northern Ireland. They got in really early and made me feel wanted.

"At that time when I met Michael (O'Neill) I was a nobody, I was just a young keeper.

"But for him to take that time out of his day to come and chat to me, and tell me about Northern Ireland, the pathway and what we're doing as a country, for me that was special.

"I don't think you'd get that from any other international manager.

"That togetherness is one of the main things that Michael brings -those family-orientated values.

"It's a great honour to have that opportunity to be involved with the team."

Peacock-Farrell made his Northern Ireland debut as a substitute in June's scoreless draw with Panama in San Jose.

His grandfather Jim Farrell is from Enniskillen.

"I think for him and my family as a whole, they will all be overwhelmed and proud to see me playing at international level," said the stopper, who rejected interest from the Republic of Ireland earlier in his career.

He added: “Certainly my grandad, who has that connection, will feel it a little bit more. It’s a massive achievement.

“I know he’s very proud and he will be watching the games.”

Peacock-Farrell will not be able to switch to the World Cup semi-finalists if he plays in the Nations Cup opener at Windsor.

It’s no surprise that England coaches are tracking Peacock-Farrell’s development as he has enjoyed a superb start to the season under new boss Marcelo Bielsa.

Pundit Noel Whelan told the Sporting Life Championship podcast that he would be looking at Peacock-Farrell for an England spot after boss Gareth Southgate hinted he would look to the Championship for players. But now it appears certain that one of the most talented young keepers playing in England is committed to the Northern Ireland cause.

“My aim is to be a regular in the set-up,” he added.

“I’m only 21, so I have a lot of time, but that is my aim and I am setting the bar high to play as many games as possible.

“To do that would be a great achievement.”

Peacock-Farrell is competing with Motherwell’s Trevor Carson and Norwich City’s Michael McGovern for a starting role against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the Nations League opener, Northern Ireland will host Israel in a friendly on Tuesday night.

He added: “We’ve had many great keepers like Pat Jennings and Harry Gregg, and to join that list — and then obviously the current list that we’ve got now, I think it’s great — if I can manage to do that and be a part of that it would mean a great deal for me.”

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