Smith urges ref to back Jack

Villa boss hopes early booking will cut out Grealish treatment

By Graham Hill

VILLA boss Dean Smith wants match officials to clamp down on any targeting of Jack Grealish in Sunday’s derby clash with Blues.

Smith remembers Birmingham midfielder Makail Kieftenbeld dishing out some physical treatment towards Grealish early on in the sides’ meeting at Villa Park last December.

And he hopes any repeat of that will result in rapid yellow card at St Andrew’s.

Smith remembers Blues getting to grips with Grealish who scored in a 4-2 win for Villa.

The Villa boss told reporters: “They did after two minutes in the home game, which Kieftenbeld didn’t get cautioned for.

“I’m sure if someone kicks him in the second minute of Sunday’s game there’ll be a caution.”

Smith says Grealish can stay on as Villa captain long-term after being handed the armband for last week’s 4-0 win over Derby.

Grealish will keep the armband at St Andrew’s and Smith is no stranger to picking surprise skippers.

At Brentford, Smith rotated the captaincy but he believes Grealish is getting added pride from skippering his boyhood team.

Smith said: Smith said:  “The captaincy role for me is quite important.

Action from December’s 4-2 win over Blues at Villa Park

“I believe we have a number of leaders in the group.

“But Jack fits the bill at the moment for me.

“He’s a potential leader and captain of this club for the future.

“If I was to give it to one of the other leaders I might be overlooking him and stopping his growth.

“Jack’s getting better each week. He’s had a full week’s training with us now and could possibly see out 90 minutes now.

“I’ll probably have to drag him off the pitch on Sunday if I sub him.”

But Smith insisted Villa are no one-man band – despite Grealish’s influence.

He added: “Jack’d be the first one to say it was the performance of his team-mates as much as him which was to do with the win last week.

“What he did was give everyone a lift. He is one of the top players in this league and would get in any team. To lose him was tough for us.”

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