When Tim Sherwood told Jack Grealish that he would be starting for the first time in the Premier League against QPR last April he had a similar reaction to that of many Aston Villa fans, “About time.” The lad is certainly a special talent and has a very bright future ahead of him, the fact that he is a Villa boy through and through makes that fact all the more special.
As Villa fans we’re all aware of what Jack Grealish is capable of with the ball at his feet and it’s a crying shame that he picked up a knock in pre season that ruled him out of the opening games of what will be his first full season as a key squad member. Grealish gladly returned to the fold against Crystal Palace, but what is also important is that his fledgling career is managed in a way that best suits his development at the club.
Our giddiness about the young midfielder and his considerable skills makes it hard not to push for the 19-year-old to be one of the first names on the team sheet, but a more cautious approach may be preferable in the long-term.
A little bit of patience
Patience will be needed from the fans and management if Grealish is to become the player we all think he can. Luckily we have the luxury of him being a Villa boy, which should buy the club time to develop him properly. Of course I’m not saying that he should be loaned out or returned to the reserves, far from it. Grealish should be a key member of the squad but that also means managing when and where he plays.
Last term under Sherwood he saw a lot of first team action and impressed but there were also games where his effect was less profound. This season he is a more known entity and will draw more attention from opponents, but that’s ok, it will all be part of the learning curve. He will have good games and bad games but we must all remain behind him.
Villa have more options this year and that too will be good for Grealish in several ways. Yes, he will have more competition but that is great for the youngster’s development and should stave off any complacency. It may also mean that he won’t start every game, but again that may have a silver lining. Grealish has shown that he can be a very effective substitute and as long as he is getting involved in games he will improve, even if it’s off the bench sometimes. Keeping him fresh will ensure his explosive energy doesn’t wane as the season goes on.
I fully expect, and hope, to see the lad in the starting eleven regularly but at least with increased options in the squad he will be allowed a little more freedom with a little less responsibility. Lining up alongside Charles N’Zogbia towards the end of last season put added pressure on Grealish to provide as the Frenchman rarely made an impact.
The thought of Grealish alongside Gil, Sinclair, and Traore is a much more enticing prospect and the trio have already given fans a taste of whats to come by combining for the U-21s, with Grealish putting the finishing touch on a good move.
Managing the future
While the necessity of managing the fitness and game time for Grealish is clear, another aspect of his career will need to be handled with care, his life off the pitch. Despite his tender age Jack Grealish has already been the focus of the media spotlight on both the front and back pages. Ray Wilkins perhaps slightly overstated things when he recently suggested that Grealish would need to “live like a monk” to fulfill his potential. Boys will be boys and Grealish should not be hung out to dry over one incident but his behaviour must be watched.
“I will back him 100 per-cent, he’s such a talented boy,” said Sherwood. “I love him and hate him at the same time! He’s a superb talent for this football club and young kids make mistakes. Hopefully he’s over that and he can learn from it.”
Sherwood must manage the player’s belief and temperament correctly. It should be made clear his ability is appreciated and his confidence encouraged but also that nothing can be taken for granted. Everything in this new era of Aston Villa must be earned. A happy medium between freedom and keeping his feet on the ground and head in the game will be the key to unlocking the full potential of Jack Grealish.
The midfielder’s international future is creeping into the limelight again but, as MOMS stated earlier this week, whoever he declares for the Villa faithful will be behind him. The most important things for the club is that Grealish is nurtured and shaped into the Villa icon and legend we all know he can become, and that he is protected from the media vultures that will circle his every success and failure.
The future looks bright (and claret and blue) for Grealish but he still has some learning to do during these formative years before he is the finished article. His decision making will need to improve, he’ll need to add goals to his game and he will need to maintain focus, but all-in-all it looks like we have a real star on our hands. He is a product of the academy and the club must do everything they can to help him achieve his maximum potential, even if it means he doesn’t play 90 minutes every game.
Expect big things from the kid but he needs to be managed right, by the club, the management, and the fans. Signs suggest that it should be a great season for the youngster, and I for one am very excited about what he can bring to the team now that he’s back.
Follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid