It’s been a very tough week. First, we were humbled by a second string Manchester City side in the FA Cup. Three days later, we were beaten once again, this time by West Ham United. Despite a good opening spell, Jordan Ayew’s ridiculous red card meant that the result was pretty much inevitable. His poor decision in the first half means that our player of the season thus far has been handed a three match ban. So who will start in his place today against Norwich City?
Jack Grealish. Going into the 2015-16 season, his was the name on every Villa fan’s lips. He scored his first goal for the club against Leicester City, a superb curling effort from outside of the box, and was nothing short of a hometown hero for the fans. After starting consistently under Sherwood, he fell out of favour with the new manager.
There’s no denying that Grealish’s behaviour off the pitch has been erratic and unacceptable. As well as the image of him lying passed out on a road on holiday, there were pictures of him enjoying ‘legal highs’ and partying after Premier League matches. It seems that being a young footballer with a lot of money can lead to some poor choices being made. When Garde took him out of the first team picture following a defeat to Everton, I completely understood.
However, this was back in November and Grealish has featured only occasionally since then. More importantly, he’s kept his head down and kept a low profile. With Ayew’s suspension, Traoré‘s injury and our lack of creativity up front, it’s time to bring Jack back. I don’t believe that he will retain the sort of form that we saw from him last season, which deservedly earned him the club’s Young Player of the Year award, but he’s our best option. He cares about the club, one that he has supported all his life, and he must be itching to get back in the starting line-up.
Many fans are understandably quite disillusioned with Grealish, which should come as no surprise to him. For a player who showed such promise and skill, this season has been very underwhelming and the blame definitely lies solely with him. At this stage of the season, when relegation is a near certainty, I want to see him back on the pitch taking on defenders. We’ve only seen glimpses of that through Adama Traoré and Jordan Ayew this year and need a player who can drive at full backs and run positively with the ball. Grealish has the ability to do those things. Ayew’s mistake should give Grealish an opportunity to prove himself again and start winning back the trust of the fans and the manager.