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01st Oct 2015

Jack Grealish is good enough for England right now but he’s screwed himself with his timing


Conan Doherty

“He’s got the talent to be an England player, although he’s got a lot of work to do before that day.”

Roy Hodgson needs a reality check.

Consistency was lost on the England manager on Thursday morning when he declared that Jack Grealish has a long way to go – before he can rub shoulders with the esteemed likes of Dele Alli and Danny Ings.

Apparently Grealish, Aston Villa’s best player, isn’t ready.

You see, he “needs to play week after week for Villa”. As if the 20-year-old hasn’t been the main man every single game for Tim Sherwood since bloody February. As if Dele Alli has started more than three games for Spurs. As if Danny Ings is anywhere near a full strength Liverpool team.

The comments of the man at the head of English football were hilariously worrying. They smacked of someone who has actually never seen Jack Grealish play – like that lad who has probably told you that England don’t need another winger when the Villa man has been dominating in a number 10 role for his club since he was plucked from Paul Lambert’s fear-driven fringes.


The rest who scoff at the notion that the youngster thinks he’s good enough for his country are perhaps the same who had written off Benteke as a good signing at Liverpool – because he was coming from Aston Villa.

Jack Grealish is the sort of footballer that England have been crying about having ever since they finally realised that all they ever do was bring through either fast wingers or strong, solid athletes.

He is one of the most fouled men in the Premier League and not because he is a tricky wide man, but because he is smart. Because he demands the ball in tight areas and he sees play and tackles develop before they happen. He gets in to pockets of space that people don’t know how to pick him up in and, without him, Villa could just book their ticket to the Championship right now. But he gives them a chance.

If Hodgson can honestly say that he has been to even three of his games and not noticed how Villa were being controlled by Grealish’s combination of technical brilliance and a measured set of gonads, he’s lying. Plain and simply, he’s lying.

If he can say that he’s been to watch the player and still thought that Dele Alli deserved a call-up ahead of him, or Danny Ings or Adam Lallana or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, then England are still suffering from the epidemic that has been sweeping the country for God knows how long. They’re still leaving footballers – proper ones – out in the cold.


Adam Lallana had a good season with Southampton but because he got his big move, he’s good enough now.

Danny Ings had a good season with Burnley but because he got his big move, he’s good enough now.

Here is Jack Grealish, actually a good player, actually with talent, but without the big club just yet. He couldn’t possibly be trusted yet against the likes of Slovenia or Estonia or Lithuania until he proves that he can play for a top six team. Then he can make that step up to England. As if it’s a bloody step up. As if.

The like of England and the rest of us give lip-service to technical players. Until they’re bombing down the wing at 30mph, we’ll never trust them – not until we’re absolutely forced to.

It’s the same reason players like Wes Hoolahan aren’t picked up until long after they should be. Or why they’re dropped for away games to Liverpool – top assists in the league and all. Technical players are risky players and Roy Hodgson is comfortable to hold Grealish at an arm’s length until there’s yet another media campaign to pick his England squad for him.

Grealish hasn’t helped himself either though and he’s made those comments from his national manager a hell of a lot easier by deciding he’s better served staying at Villa rather than training with England next week.

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa - Premier League

The timing of his decision to admit that – having been born and brought up in England by English parents – he’s actually English, was horrendous.

He’s left it until September with two competitive games left for the country before the Euros. He can’t play those because he pissed about for so long and is now waiting on FIFA clearance. It means he might not make Roy’s Euro 2016 squad because he can’t be given an acid test against Estonia or Lithuania.

If he doesn’t play in the tournament in the summer, he can’t officially declare for England with a competitive cap until this time next year and, by God, a lot could happen in a year. He could get injured, he could be relegated, Dele Alli might actually turn out to be good and Hodgson might not like whatever Grealish has in store for Tenerife during next year’s holidays.

In a year’s time, Jack Grealish could find that circumstances and a stupid manager dictate that he’s even further away from the England squad than he is now and he’ll have himself partly to blame for wasting Ireland’s time but, most importantly, his own.

In a year’s time, Jack Grealish could throw a strop and decide to cash in his chips and declare that he’s Irish after all.

And, whilst the tempting thing to do would be to tell him to piss off, the smart thing to do would be to welcome him with open arms.

Because he’s a gem of a player and he’s going places. Roy Hodgson doesn’t change that for a second.

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