THE BLOG

Full English?

05/11/2014 15:21 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Latching on to Ryan Taylor's through ball, the teenager strode forward some 20 yards, leaving £25 million worth of centre-half in his wake, before coolly slotting past Willy Caballero - the catalyst for Newcastle on their way to an unlikely win at Manchester City. It was the winger's second goal in two appearances, having also scored in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace back in August. Add an assist to the mix and it's easy to see why Rolando Aarons has been turning heads, including that of the England manager Roy Hodgson.

Born in Kingston, Aarons is also eligible to play for Jamaica, although seems poised to represent The Three Lions after already playing, and scoring, for Aidy Boothroyd's Under 20s in September.

It's a rise not unlike that of Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, another Jamaican-born turned England international, but Aarons will have to produce a bit more before that particular comparison can be completely explored. What can be discussed now, though, is the decision to pursue international football with England rather than Jamaica.

Compared to The FA's courting of Manchester United's breakout star last season Adnan Januzaj, the consideration of Aarons and Sterling for England is perhaps a little less contentious. Their naturalisation is a bit more natural, while Januzaj's would have simply stemmed from a loophole. As it turned out, Januzaj was never actually eligible, because he hadn't received formal education in England for the requisite time period, but a by-product of Fleet Street's perfect storm over the matter, had reignited the debate on what constitutes as 'English.'

Plenty offered their two pennies' worth, with Arsenal's Jack Wilshere suggesting, "If you've lived in England for five years, for me, it doesn't make you English. You shouldn't play. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I'm not going to play for Spain." Quite.

To my mind though, Wilshere is only half right. He's correct to say that eligibility shouldn't rest on residency alone, but he's wrong to dismiss the affinity that can come with it, even over a short space of time. Take the now retired Fabrice Muamba, whose family fled war-torn Zaire for England in 1994. He was 11 when he arrived and went on to star for England Under 21s, thankful to the country that saved his life.

Of course, not all cases are so extreme. Aarons, Sterling and also Wilfred Zaha were born outside of England, but came to the country at an early age. It's perfectly understandable that they would develop an attachment to England, though it doesn't make them any less Jamaican or Ivorian. What it does do for players like these, however, is present them with a very difficult decision to make, one that will take into account far more than just the current world rankings.

There's a misguided status quo at the moment that picking England is a no brainer. The reasoning tends to cohere around entitlement - if they live here they should play for us, England are bigger than where ever they're from, where they're from won't qualify for a World Cup and so on and so forth. But beyond the attempts of the FA to tap up the best young talent, the sensitive issue of identity is one that must be tackled by the players themselves. If they choose England, they risk inciting sections of fans from their birth nations who feel they've been let down. Equally, while the FA might be keen to address England's shortcomings by any means necessary, there will be some English fans that are unwelcoming to the concept of 'foreign' players in the national side.

Still, the debate about multi-eligibility is no new trick - John Barnes (Jamaica) and Owen Hargreaves (Canada and Wales) both played prominent roles for England despite being born elsewhere. Ultimately, it comes down to the players and where they feel personally most drawn to or where they feel will best benefit their professional career.

More often than not, it is the latter that tends to sway them towards England, and while the likes of Barnes, Hargreaves and Sterling presently can be seen to vindicate that, it's worth asking, would a different decision have helped to develop their birth-nations more? If Jamaica had benefited from the likes of Barnes, Sterling or Daniel Sturridge, who qualifies through parentage, would the Reggae Boyz have made more of an impact on the international stage; and indeed would this help to fend off England for future bright sparks?

And what of the one or two cap wonders, whose careers stalled after their initial call-ups? There is a pressure on multi-eligible players who play in the Premier League to commit to England, but would they go further with another national team? Might Zaha have starred for the Ivory Coast at an African Cup of Nations, had he not opted to be England's sixth or seventh choice winger?

Michael Chopra, who was born in Newcastle, but qualifies for India through his father, has openly admitted his regret at not choosing to pursue international football with them sooner. Given his goal scoring record in the Championship and the standard of India's qualifying opponents, is it unreasonable to ponder if they might have made a World Cup with him leading the line?

On all sorts of fronts, Rolando Aarons and players like him are tasked with a tough choice. Under FIFA rules, players who have represented one country at junior level can play for another senior side if they meet the qualifying stipulations. Playing for the full England team is certainly a tantalizing prospect, but the merits of the alternative must not be overlooked. If Aarons does opt for England, then let's hope that he can follow Sterling's lead rather than Zaha's.