Jack Grealish must had woken up on Wednesday and felt a lucky man to be putting on the England kit ready for a training session with England’s best.
Any kid with ambition of becoming a footballer will want to play for your country. An opportunity that has not been handed to the Aston Villa player despite deserving his chance ever since he entered the Premier League.
He was overlooked in the initial England squad announcement and has only been handed his opportunity following withdrawals from Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks.
Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips and Arsenal’s Ashley Maitland-Niles were handed chances ahead of him despite their limited Premier League experience.
Manager, Gareth Southgate, explained his decision of why the Birmingham-born star was overlooked initially.
“[Grealish is] competing in my view against Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling,” explained Southgate. “I know Villa have played him as an eight, but I don’t see him in that role for us.”
So is he putting a square peg into a round hole in selecting the player or underestimating the player’s capabilities to adapt to the formation selected? Or is he right in not selecting the player if he doesn’t the manager’s plans? He would be likely sold if this was club football.
Southgate sees Grealish as a forward playing in one of the wide positions, mainly the left. Therefore, he has to compete with players who could be seen as arguable above him in the pecking order and ahead in technical ability. The Villa captain averages a league goal every 404 minutes, while Sterling, Greenwood, Sancho and Rashford all average a goal in less than 160 minutes. A figure that fails in comparison but doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Had he been playing for a team that wasn’t fighting for relegation all season, his figures of eight goals and six assists would had looked much more impressive. A regular fixture within an attacking set-up would see a better return.
Putting Grealish in an essential winger or inside forward position won’t see the best out of the 24-year-old as he often tends to drop deep to receive the ball. He is unlikely to show any sort of pace to beat the last defender and offside trap, so the possibility of him starting from kick-off is slim.
Despite this, it is conclusive among football fans (particularly Villa fans) that his form during Project Restart deserves a place in the squad.