‘Gareth: Bang a gong for Grealish’

THE Sunday People’s NEIL MOXLEY has had his say on Jack Grealish and England, and reckons Gareth Southgate is missing a trick when it comes to not picking the Villa skipper

GARETH Southgate has breathed new life into England – but his logic is flawed over Jack Grealish.

The Three Lions’ chief is heavily in credit with the country and has been recognised for England’s run in the World Cup with a gong.

But it really should be beating for Aston Villa’s enigmatic star who has finally come of age.

It’s difficult to understand why there is now such resistance to Grealish – he needs to be given an international platform to showcase his talents.

Why so?

Well, while the eyes of the country were feasting on a Champions League clash at Old Trafford that ended up being about as palatable as a plate of cold beans on toast, the 23-year-old was leading his club into the play-off mix with a goal at Rotherham that underlined his talents as a player with serious talent.

Watch it on Youtube, bring it up on your social media feed – where you see the strike is irrelevant.

Just take a long look at it – and then close your eyes…imagine if Dele Alli had come up with the same. Or Raheem Sterling.

It’s difficult to think of too many other players who actually have the skill to pull off that kind of move.

Once you’ve seen the footage from that goal, bring up his strike on the volley from a corner against Derby County from a few weeks ago.

And try telling me this lad isn’t a player.

For those who missed it, Southgate’s reasoning for omitting Grealish from the last fixtures was as follows.

“When the evidence of the of an opponent is at a different level, that’s where it’s hard to directly correlate what it is going to look like at a level above,” he said.

That was manager-speak for: He’s not playing in the Premier League.

England’s boss continued.

“With Callum Hudson-Odoi, he’s playing in the Europa League, he’s playing in the Premier League, that does make a difference.”

So the fact it was ‘only’ a Championship fixture doesn’t carry weight in Southgate’s eyes.

Grealish has been made Villa’s skipper – make no mistake, this is one of the country’s top one dozen football clubs – at the age of 23.

At the same stage of his own career, Southgate himself hadn’t actually been transferred there, let alone been given the armband.

Additionally, Grealish has played in the top-flight, even though it was in a shambolic side that was heading for the trapdoor in spectacular fashion.

Furthermore, the Europa League is not as taxing as England’s boss is making out. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have progressed without too much fuss to the last eight. Both won their quarter-final ties this week to nil.

It has also to be remembered that Hudson-Odoi made his first start for England before he had made his full league debut for Chelsea.

And as if any more evidence was needed, Chelsea’s Mason Mount – on loan at Derby County – has also received a call-up, despite the fact he was playing in the second tier.

Finally, Grealish’s response to being punched by a moronic punter during the Second City derby was to dust himself down and score the winner.

That takes some bottle. And grounding. And skill.

Much as there is to admire about the manner in which England’s boss has approached the job – with maturity, common sense and bravery – he needs to re-sharpen his focus and think again.

Southgate deserves all the praise that comes his way after taking a chance on the kids – but he is seriously missing a trick as far as Jack Grealish is concerned.

*This column first appeared in The People, on Sunday, April 14

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