COMMENT by Graham Hill, Villa Roar
THINGS are becoming crystal clear for Jack Grealish in terms of his long term future in the game.
With England boss Gareth Southgate insisting that Grealish must be playing in the Premier League to earn a full Three Lions cap, there are two options for the Villa skipper.
If he harbours hopes of a serious international future as a Villa player then he must win promotion via the play-offs this season.
That is Dean Smith’s only hope of hanging on to the midfielder who has transformed Villa’s season.
Otherwise, and it is difficult to argue against this, Grealish is likely to push for a top flight move – probably to Tottenham – this summer.
That would raise his profile on two fronts – with club and country – and it would be difficult to see Grealish steeling himself for another season in the Championship.
Because now the gauntlet has been thrown down by Southgate – a former Villa skipper.
The carrot of international football is there for him.
Southgate admits Grealish is being monitored – but the level of football he plays at counts against him.
If Grealish sees any kind of future at Villa, then that could add an another edge to his game in the remaining weeks of the season.
Southgate seems to have put down a marker that he is reluctant to cap players from the Championship.
You might argue that Stoke’s Jack Butland has kept his place in the England squad.
But the goalkeeper situation is different and Butland is not first choice.
Plus, the former Blues keeper was already part of Southgate’s long-term vision and the indications are that Butland will leave Stoke this summer anyway.
Southgate told The Telegraph when asked about Grealish: “I’m not going to say we won’t pick a player from the Championship because that could happen but it’s far more difficult to assess his level.
“You see certain parts of the game but not others. Not the physicality at times, nor the tactical discipline.
“That’s another level in the Premier League, the speed, the pace.
“So, he’s a player we know all about, he’s a player we track.
“But that last bit of evidence that could give you confidence to pick him at the moment we won’t see. But as an ex-Villa man I hope it’s not too long before we do see it.”