Bruce in the middle

ALEX Bruce has been caught in the middle of an international football row between the two Irish associations.Northern Ireland claim that Ipswich Town defender Bruce, along with a number of other young internationals with connections to the north, are not eligible to play for the Republic.

By Derek Davis

ALEX Bruce has been caught in the middle of an international football row between the two Irish associations.

Northern Ireland claim that Ipswich Town defender Bruce, along with a number of other young internationals with connections to the north, are not eligible to play for the Republic.

Although born in Norwich when dad Steve played for the Canaries, Bruce qualifies to play for both the Republic and Northern Ireland through his grandmother, who hails from Bangor, County Down in Northern Ireland.


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He is a dual national with a Great Britain & Northern Ireland and a Republic of Ireland passport and that has been enough to convince the FAI and Steve Staunton that he can play.

Bruce was called up to the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad but turned them down to play for Eire and made five Under-21 appearances for the Republic, before making his senior debut at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey, against Ecuador last May.

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But Northern Ireland have asked FIFA to investigate his eligibility to play for the south claiming the Irish Agreement does not cover football and breaches FIFA rules.

Howard Wells, Northern Ireland chief executive, who held the same post at Ipswich Town briefly in 1999, wrote to FIFA in February who in turn have contacted the FAI and expect an answer back this month.

Wells said: “This is an issue to do with player eligibility according to FIFA's own rules. It is a principle that needs to be resolved based on player eligibility, so that it is applied consistently.

“Alex Bruce is a player we have asked FIFA and the Republic to clarify but it is not about individuals, it is about the principle.”

The four key points that allow a player to play for a country is that he is born there, his parents are born there, or his grandparents are born there, or that he has lived there for two years.

Northern Ireland argues that Bruce does not qualify for the Republic as his grandmother is from County Down.

Bruce is staying out of the row and was instead waiting for a call from Steve Staunton, who has placed him on stand-by for the Irish squad that travels to Slovakia and the Czech Republic for the European Championship qualifiers.

Bruce last night said: “It is a matter for two associations to sort out. No one from the FAI have contacted me to say there is a problem and as far as I'm aware I'm still on stand-by.”

Wells has also questioned the eligibility of Portsmouth's Marc Wilson, Crewe's Michael O'Connor and more pertinently Manchester United's Darron Gibson who is in Staunton's current squad, while Tony Kane has gone back to Nigel Worthington's side.

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