As a boyhood Aston Villa fan, the last thing I want is to upset followers of this great club. They have had a hard enough time as it is, seeing their team drop out of the Premier League after several seasons of miserable football.
Back in the big time now, those fans are having to endure another relegation scrap that could easily end in further heartache.
If that were to happen, another heavy body blow wouldn’t be far behind. The bean counters would probably demand it, what with Financial Fair Play dictating policy. To raise some much-needed cash, Villa would surely be forced to let Jack Grealish go.
That said, I think the local hero has already outgrown this team. Though it pains me to say it, Grealish is too good for Villa in their present state. The boy needs to move on, whether or not the club stays in the top flight.
We’ve seen the evidence this season time and again, when Villa’s captain has dragged the team forward as its main inspiration. Even senior teammates look to the 24 year-old to make something happen when things are tight.
And Grealish doesn’t often let them down. Even if the side eventually comes away with nothing, their talisman usually provides hope with his thrilling ability to carry the ball forward, to commit defenders, to generally create danger around the opposition’s goal. For a player who holds on to the ball, he doesn’t lose it much, either. The confident Brummie knows just when to relinquish possession, to pop the ball off, often playing slick one-twos on the edge of the box.
Because of this style, it’s no surprise that he’s the most fouled player in the Premier League. But when a hefty blow lands, you don’t see him making a drama out of it. Grealish seems to bear the physical and mental strength to take the punishment. I think he’d actually prefer to do away with those flimsy shinpads that must rank anyway as the smallest in the League.
As for goals, he’s scored some beauties this season, notably at Old Trafford, where he left David De Gea helpless with a wonderful curler. As it happens, there’s a story going round about Grealish wanting to join United. True or not, there will be plenty offering big money should Villa decide to put him on the market.
The thing is, Grealish is a bit different with the way he plays. He would add something useful to all the top clubs, including Tottenham, Sunday’s opponents, who came close to capturing him a couple of summers back.
Grealish, however, is twice the player now and I’d be amazed if he wasn’t included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the two upcoming friendlies.
The month of March, in fact, should be a huge one for him, kicking off with the Carabao Cup Final against Manchester City before those internationals. This is where Grealish belongs now — on the big stage.