Listening to Steve Bruce being interviewed on BBC WM after a disappointing result against lowly Cardiff, he certainly wasn’t holding back when it came to his criticism of certain players.
One of the players he specifically pinpointed was Jack Grealish and the player’s reaction to the attention he was getting from the Cardiff players, which mirrored the encounter at Villa Park.
“He’s a very decent player and he has to be careful he doesn’t turn into a circus act, waving his arms around every time he gets challenged,” said Bruce of the England U-21 player.
“He’s got to learn not to react like he does.
“The arms, rolling around and the rest of it – we’re English and we don’t accept it.
“All good players get kicked and he has to accept that will happen.”
Essentially Bruce was telling his player to man-up and to avoid risking yellow cards for simulation.
All of this was fair enough, but when Bruce started to point the finger at Cardiff’s treatment of Grealish and the need for referees to protect him, MOMS couldn’t help smile at the irony of all this.
After all, who was the boss of Hull City in 2014, when Jack Grealish came on as a substitute for his home Premier League debut against the Tigers and got the proverbial sh*t kicked out of him?
Three Hull players received yellow cards within the space of about 10 minutes for fouls on the young midfielder (see video below), who was a teenager then. It was if he had been targeted by the then Hull boss.
Rec5096 by ivannasee-somebutts
In many ways Bruce set the blueprint to how to deal with Grealish. Like the Hull City game back in 2014, in the Cardiff game, Grealish won several freekicks (six).
“First and foremost we’ve got to protect him,” said Bruce, after the Bluebirds game.
“The referees have got to have the courage and the balls to protect him, that’s one thing.
“He’s been kicked from pillar to post in both games.”
Irony aside, maybe the main takeaway from the opposition’s treatment of Grealish is that Bruce should concentrate on the set plays that Grealish can win for the team.
Casting one’s mind back to Ashley Young’s time at Villa, set plays from the winger’s freekick winning were a fruitful supply of goals for Martin O’Neill’s team. In comparison, Villa’s recent set plays have been somewhat lame and wasteful.
If Grealish can work on a toned down version of his ‘circus act’, it could provide rich rewards for Villa going forward.