When Jack Grealish came off the bench for Aston Villa Football Club against Brighton and Hove Albion in the last round of fixtures and started in yesterday’s 3-1 victory over Cardiff City, he looked like a player who has found his feet.
Of course, he had some time to make up for following his three-game suspension after receiving a red card in Steve Bruce’s first game as manager against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thankfully, it seems he is prepared to do just that. In his twenty-three minute cameo against the Seagulls and his ninety minutes against the Bluebirds, he showed glimpses of his undoubted quality and the influence he can have on the team and a match.
His performance yesterday came after he was interviewed by Henry Winter. In that interview, Grealish described just how much relegation hurt him as a fan and player, how much the club means to him, his desire to become a role model to young fans and his ambition and belief that automatic promotion is a realistic target this season. His words were positive. However, we want to see Grealish do his talking on the football pitch.
A vintage performance on Saturday it was not yet Jack’s performance showed his desire. At times, he found himself in deeper positions within his own half and was prepared to go on the half turn to find a forward pass whilst at other times, such as for the penalty, he was prepared to move into the opposition’s box and take players on. There are not many better sights in football, in my opinion, than a player who is prepared to do this.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock was true to form during and after the game yesterday. He was quick to suggest that Grealish was calling for players to be booked and had gone down easily for the penalty and on other occasions. There are also reports that the fiery manager waited in the tunnel to have a word with our England Under-21 international after the game, which, along with his post-match interviews, shows a lack of class.
We know that Grealish has perhaps gone down easily in the past but I think he is doing this much less often now. Instead, he is often targeted by the opposition as a player to stop at all costs. On Saturday, however, especially in the first half, where we seemed to get little to nothing from the referee, I think that Warnock’s assessment is unjust. Neither Lee Peltier, who received a second yellow card after a tackle on Grealish, nor Sean Morrison, who conceded the penalty, appeared to have any real complaints regarding the decisions made by the referee against them.
It seems to me that Steve Bruce has now found the best position in the team for Grealish. He has been wasted and somewhat ineffective out wide and perhaps there isn’t room for both Grealish and McCormack in the same side as they are both looking to pick the ball up in the same areas of the pitch. On paper, playing Grealish along with three forwards suggests that our midfield might be overrun but the twenty-one-year-old’s work rate against the Bluebirds has shown that it is workable, especially at home.
Grealish has something to build upon – and a manager who clearly believes in him. Hopefully, he can continue to do his talking on the pitch by having an impact every week.