By Phil Jennings
JACK GREALISH says he has ‘grown up’ since he was pictured flat out on a holiday to Tenerife four years ago.
The Villa skipper is preparing to captain Dean Smith’s side into the play-offs next week.
And the 23-year-old says he has matured since the days when he felt he could still be one of the lads and not attract any attention.
Grealish learned the hard way when a holiday photo of him – apparently drunk – went viral and made headline news in 2015.
That was a harsh lesson and now Grealish he has a responsibility to go along with his reputation as a player.
Grealish said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday: “That picture in Tenerife – I was just a kid. Three months before that, I could go anywhere, I could do whatever I wanted, because I wasn’t even playing.
“Then within two or three months I’d played in an FA Cup semi-final and done well, played in the FA Cup final and people were talking about me playing for England. Three months before that, I couldn’t even get in the team.
“The attention around the Tenerife thing was a massive shock at the time. I was just on a lads’ holiday with a few friends having fun and the next thing you know I’m getting a call off someone at Villa and it’s just everywhere, this photo.
“I’ve grown up from that now and I think I’ve put it behind me. I wouldn’t change what I do for the world – every single day I’m lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I’m just enjoying my football. I’m loving playing for the manager and with this group of players.”
Grealish admits that being handed the captain’s armband on his return to the first team in March has boosted him beyond words.
He added: “It was a dream come true. I got out of the training ground and phoned my mum and my dad and I think my dad got a bit emotional actually.’
“As you get older, you get wiser. I’m still a young kid now and I don’t want to say that I’ve fully matured yet, because I haven’t. I’m only 23. But I do feel like I’ve been around for quite a while.
“Even now, I’m not going to say I don’t go out any more – I still do – but you just have to pick the right times to do it and know that you’re in the public eye and everyone’s watching you. I can see it from everyone’s point of view. You have responsibilities and you are role models to kids. That comes with the job.”