The Good Bad and Ugly Of Super Jack Grealish
With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…
By Phil Shaw
So in a surprise to everyone who isn’t afraid of the clout that Manchester City have over World Football, Jack Grealish has decided to join them in a (current) British record transfer fee of around £100 million. To say there’s a Good, Bad and Ugly to this saga, would be an understatement.
Let’s not be bitter or flippant, yet, anyway. On the pitch, Jack Grealish was a joy to watch. Gliding past players effortlessly and exciting the crowd, whether you were watching in stadiums or from home, it was a pleasure to watch.
Without needing to go into the endless, pointless stats, he simply made things happen on the pitch.
The goal against the Blues after getting chinned by a fan, the run against Rotherham, the Derby volley from a corner, the Old Trafford curler. All of these will live long in the memory, as will the simple things he did so well. The two assists for Matty Targett against Brighton and Leicester, and the run against Arsenal before setting up Watkins.
To say Grealish was anything apart from an excellent player on the pitch is just wrong. I’ll miss seeing the ball land at his feet and the feeling of belief that something good was about to happen.
The fact that he was a Villa fan like us just amplified it all.
When Grealish put in a career highlight performance against Liverpool in the 7-2 win, I felt like something changed, and it wasn’t good for Aston Villa.
Not only were Villa now on the radar, ‘Brand Grealish’ was as well. His agent Jonathan Barnett, owner of Stellar Sports, can rightly be called a ‘super agent’. With all eyes on Villa after that match, Grealish the brand kicked up a gear and the Euros were only going to elevate it.
On the pitch his performance levels didn’t drop, but increasingly more and more he was being noticed for his endorsements and as a personality. Boohoo had him as a model, and Call of Duty had him kicking a grenade.
Despite being injured for three months as Villa’s European challenge fell off a cliff, Grealish’s profile with every supporter in the land grew without him setting foot on the pitch.
By the time the Euros came along, Grealish was the name on everyone’s lips. Despite limited time on the pitch, he managed to make all the headlines with a game-changing cameo against Germany, being sub-subbed in the semi-final and not being relied on to take a penalty in the final.
All good things on a personal level, but from Aston Villa’s point of view, the glitz and glamour was surely what turned his head. His month away with England, mixing with those who already enjoyed the top level limelight only cemented his desire to move on.44
Once he saw that all he had to do to maintain that next level of fame was go to Manchester City, the Villa Project must have looked like hard work.
Having a five-year-old is difficult, but one thing the mind of a child can bring is simplicity.
When my boy asked, why is Jack Grealish going to play for someone else? I had no answer.
Usually, there are any number of reason’s and excuses you can use to reason with a child, but this decision to go to Manchester City instead of remaining captain of the club he was a fan of, wasn’t one of them.
The ugly truth is you can’t say he wasn’t good enough for Aston Villa, you can’t say we are getting someone better, and you want to avoid saying he wants to win some easy trophies, because what sort of life lesson would that be teaching him?
In the end, you have to just shrug and say ‘I don’t know…’ because it’s easier than facing up to the difficult questions.
Why is Grealish leaving after suffering through all the bad years, when things are finally on the right path?
It goes on…but then comes the bitterness.
After Grealish signed a new contract for Villa less than a year ago, he was professing his love for Villa at every opportunity, while lurking in the shadows was the release clause. If Villa didn’t get into the Champions League last season (little chance of that happening), any club who did qualify for the Champions League that forked up £100m, could have him.
The team that did trigger the clause, Manchester City, were perhaps the anthesis of the sentimental story that Villa fans were craving for Grealish. Under Sheikh Mansour’s ownership, around £2.5 billion has been invested in Manchester City, to literally buy success, including five Premier League titles.
Grealish’s £100m has brought Pep Guardiola’s personal spending up to almost a billion pounds. Is he really the greatest manager in the world, as Grealish professes, when he has almost limitless funds to get who he wants? The average cost of a player in the City first XI is north of £40m.
Sounds like easy street for Pep and Grealish, if you ask me.
We’ve lost our best players to City before, but this one hurts more, and it doesn’t just hurt Villa more, it hurts football.
If Aston Villa, with the riches, ambition, and the team spirit they have, can’t hold on to the services of their lifelong fan and captain, then what’s the point of the Premier League?
The Super League may as well have proceeded. Although, while the press rallied against the prospect of that, they applaud and encourage Grealish to move to City, as the norm.
The Super League was a greedy cash and power grab designed to remove competition from European football. But you can see why some of the teams did it, as in the long-run, they simply can’t compete with Manchester City. Look at Barcelona – they now can’t even afford an ageing Messi.
Seemingly immune to FFP, City may as well be another governing body, the way they are allowed to behave financially. Soon it will be FIFA, UEFA and MCFC running the show.
That’s why Grealish would have been different and that’s why his departure is disappointing.
He could have achieved the ultimate Roy of the Rovers style legacy, that used to be the beating heart of what drove the sport. The kid playing in their back garden or local park, dreaming about playing for and then winning trophies with the club they supported.
The stars aligned with the present owners arriving at Villa. It made the dream an actual possibility (based on the evidence of what happened this year for Wes Eden’s Bucks in the NBA). Grealish even had a Villa-supporting boss. If he won the FA Cup with Villa, he’d match his great, great grandfather’s achievement. If he lead Villa back into the European Cup/Champions League, he’d earn immortality at the club.
Of course, it would have been a gamble for the player. He’d give up pretty much guaranteed silverware playing for the Primark Galacticos of the North West. He’d also miss playing for Pep, the manager who despite his spending, still can’t landed City the trophy that Grealish used to see everyday at Villa.
The parroted media spin of Grealish wanting to test himself to win trophies at City is laughable, as the ugly truth is they’d win those trophies with or without him. There is no test. It’s a given.
So congrats in advance to Grealish for his cup wins and the league titles to come.
Villa will march on without him, try to disrupt the status quo and hopefully make football great again.