By Graham Hill
SATURDAY’S game at Stoke City could see Villa’s play-off hopes pretty much consigned to the litter bin for another year.
The only saving grace, and only glimmer of hope we do have for this weekend’s visit to the Potteries, is the possible return of Jack Grealish.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you Villa’s star midfielder has been out of action now since early December and the game at West Brom, the infamous Hand of Rod match.
Little did we know then but it would be almost three months before we would see Grealish back in action again.
In that time, Villa’s season has stumbled badly and it’s difficult to describe how much Grealish has been missed.
He gives opponents so many problems, he draws them in to to him – and they are desperate to stop him.
At his best, it seems as though all the opposition want to do is foul him as a way of keeping him quiet, but it allows other players in the team to flourish with the attention focused on Grealish.
Sadly, we really haven’t seen this in recent weeks and it will be tremendous to see Grealish back in action, if that is the case at the bet365 stadium this weekend.
If Grealish can work his magic, then who knows, a run of results at this stage of the season can work wonders – look at Fulham last year. It is still possible for Villa to finish in the top six, let’s not forget that, but in reality it’s going to take a superhuman effort to make it happen.
But Grealish is the kind of player that does make things happen, it will be great to see him play again at the weekend, but also interesting to see how much effect that layoff has had on his fitness.
However that could be a double edged sword, it would seem likely that a return to form for the midfielder would see him wanted by Premier League clubs this summer, just as he was last year.
He is the one factor that could just about make the difference that is needed between now and the end of the season.