By Graham Hill
ASTON Villa head coach Dean Smith says Jack Grealish is a football ‘nut’ who puts in extra hours to improve his status as a Premier League player.
Smith admitted his captain even catches up on sleep at the training ground so he can fit in more sessions.
“I’m surprised his missus is still with him!,” joked Smith ahead of Monday’s clash with West Ham at Villa Park.
Grealish says he was ‘angry’ after referee Kevin Friend booked him for diving at Crystal Palace two weeks ago – and denied Villa a late equaliser as a result.
But Smith says Grealish is determined to put in the work he knows is needed to maintain standards now that he is back in the top flight after inspiring Villa’s promotion last season.
“Jack’s a football nut,” said Smith.
“He’ll train and go and find a room somewhere and fall asleep.
“Then he’ll wake up and go and do a gym session. That’s how he is. He’s that sort of character.
“I’m surprised his missus is still with him!
“He’ll go back and he’ll be watching football at home as well.
“You end up sometimes dragging him off the training ground. But he wants to get better. It’s a massive plus in his favour.”
Grealish summed up his feelings after the Palace game.
”It was a massive frustration that night, horrible! I just couldn’t sit still. It was a tough one to take but it’s something you’ve just got to deal with. I was so angry,” said the Villa midfielder who turned 24 last week.
Smith believes there will be a steady improvement from Grealish, whose progress is bring monitored by England coach Gareth Southgate.
“There’s more to come from Jack,” said Smith.
“He picked the ball up from the halfway line and played a couple of one-twos to get into the situation you saw against Palace.
“What we want him to do is to be running at opposition players and hurting them like he did at Selhurst Park.
“He’s got to the pace of the Premier League, that’s for sure.”
Smith thinks standards will get even higher at Villa if more players are called-up for England.
Tyrone Mings was in the last squad and Gareth Southgate is monitoring Grealish’s progress.
Smith added: “Tyrone came back came back from the England set-up and the first thing he has said to me is how professional the top players are, the Raheem Sterlings and Harry Kanes of this world.
“I think Tyrone’s a really good professional, so that can only influence our dressing-room and make him better.”
Smith also admires the work Manel Pellegrini has done at West Ham.
He added: “I listened to him at the Football Museum in Manchester. He’s one who has done 1,000 games as a manager.
“Everyone can see the job he has done. Our sporting director Suso has told me a number of tales about what a good person he is. His signings and recruitment have been very astute. He’s a top coach.”