Mark Sykes deciding to play for the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland is hugely disappointing, but the bottom line is if your heart's not in it, you are no good to the dressing room or the team.
I believe it is important to note that the Northern Ireland squad is a good environment to be in, it's inclusive of everyone, it's welcoming and the senior lads go a long way to making the new boys feel comfortable. Sykesy has been in squads and he will know all of the above is 100% correct.
I also have no doubt switching allegiance will have been a hard decision for him to make. Ultimately, you can't be there half-hearted.
If I was still involved with the Northern Ireland team, I wouldn't want anyone there who was half-hearted. The lads who are still there wouldn't want anyone who is half-hearted because we need full commitment and total passion to give your all and have a connection with everyone, be it team-mates or supporters.
With us being a small country, it is only together that we can be strong. If you are not in it with us, off you go and all the best.
I was on an Irish FA coaching course earlier this month and someone came and spoke to me about the possibility of Sykesy going to the Republic. What I saw was a guy who had known Mark for 10 years and was absolutely devastated.
Knowing someone for so long and working with that person for so long his words were "G, we treat these kids like our own" and he was close to tears talking about it because it meant so much.
The headlines have been about Mark Sykes, but what about all the people from Northern Ireland who have helped get him to full-time football with Oxford United? Let's be honest here, without playing for our Under-21s, he doesn't get a move to England.
He may have been doing well in the Irish League with Glenavon, but it was when he played for the Under-21s that clubs started taking notice because it is a higher level of football and remember it was when Ian Baraclough was manager of the Under-21s that Sykes flourished, so this will be a real kick in the teeth for him.
On a broader point, Mark has stopped the pathway of another player through the IFA system which, for me, is the worst thing about all of this. He has used resources, people's time and energy and then turned his back on them as well as the IFA and Northern Ireland.
Going forward for the IFA, I truly believe that if you are good enough, everyone should be welcomed into the system, but once you start the system - with, say, Club NI - you or your parents should sign a contract with our Association. You are free to walk away but you must compensate for the hours of coaching that has been put in for you.
It should be between you and the Association that you move to - the FAI, for example - to pay a fee. I don't know how much it costs to put a player through all the programmes but I'm guessing it is not cheap, and because it has closed a pathway for someone else, I think if you switch there should be a cost for that.
With the eligibility rules in place, the Sykes situation will happen again and the FAI will end up with more players who came through the IFA system.
For all the work the IFA put in with players, it is only right they get some reward, and if you are an international player you are going to be on decent money so you should be able to pay a fee.
On the plus side, Sykes leaving has opened the door for his talented Oxford team-mate Joel Cooper, who I believe will be totally committed to Northern Ireland and that is exactly what we want and what we need.
THE first starting XI of every new Northern Ireland manager is always keenly watched and debated, and one area that interests me is whether Ian Baraclough will go with Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Trevor Carson or Michael McGovern in goal against Romania.
I'd personally have a goalkeeper that is playing. Trevor is playing well for Motherwell right now so I would be nodding towards him.
I think it is strange that Bailey has just signed a new contract at Burnley, where he is still at best a number two. I know he is only a young boy and there is the prestige of the Premier League and all that, but he was at a club in Leeds - in the Championship at that time - where he was playing games and then he spat the dummy out a little bit when another goalkeeper came in.
I don't get signing a new contract at Burnley because he is sitting on the bench. I believe he can have a big career but to do that he has to start playing games.
It is a tough one for Ian because, to be fair to Bailey, when he has been called upon by Northern Ireland he has been top class, but Trevor's match sharpness would edge me towards him for Romania.
Bailey was the number one under Michael O'Neill, and Ian's decision might show how he thinks and what his message is to the players in terms of game time for their clubs.
As for the Romania and Norway Nations League games, they will iron out what Ian wants from his team and will be his chance to get any messages across. They are important matches and, while they will be difficult, the boys are going to play to win.
It is vital they are used properly and that every minute together on and off the pitch is spent well, all with the Bosnia Euro 2020 play-off game in October in mind.
The trip to Romania is also a dress rehearsal travelling within a bubble and, ahead of going to Bosnia, it is important that everyone is comfortable with how it is done.