The clickbait churn cycle is well underway on the subject of Jack Grealish. The Birmingham Mail has already published several stories today, which it will recycle over the weekend.
On social media some Aston Villa supporters seem to have turned into accountants rather than being football supporters, as they seem happy to sell up their best home-grown player off for a few million, with no real thought to how that money will be spent and potentially wasted like so many millions before it.
Oh, remember how we replaced Ashley Young with Charles N’Zogbia?
Meanwhile, Jack Grealish himself, is spending his time relaxing, lying on Marbella beaches and going out listening to DJs at the local clubs, attempting to get over the disappointment of Villa’s failed trip to Wembley.
Don’t expect any real news or decisions in the next week or so.
Do to his freakish kidney injury in preseason, Grealish only started 22 games for Villa this season and all in, played less minutes this season than the likes of Neil Taylor and Glenn Whelan.
Despite this, during the second half of the season Grealish seriously impressed MOMS by his progress and actually gave us a reason to actually watch Villa for footballing reasons, rather than simply exercise blind tribal support.
‘Steve Bruce had talked in preseason about building a team around Grealish, but in reality all he did was build a team behind Grealish’
Vision of the Future
It was at half-time against Preston at Villa Park in mid-February that MOMS realised Villa weren’t going to get automatic promotion. While they trailed 1-0 at half-time and were without Grealish due to an injury he picked up against the Blues, it was the way they had actually set up to play against Preston that was the problem, showing the visitors far, far too much respect.
Grinding results away from home is one thing, but at home to teams further down the table than you?
The week before, Villa had fully demonstrated what they could actually do, against an in-form Blues team, if they sought to dictate a game from start to finish – you know, actually play like they were the home team with the best squad in the division. With Grealish pulling the strings, this was a vision of how Villa should always play, especially at Villa Park.
What MOMS had been watching against Preston was an all too frequent frustrating example of Bruce’s conservative approach that led to dire football, as he sought to grind out results. There were limits to where the approach would get us, but at the same time weren’t we under selling ourselves? Surely our expensively assembled squad could perhaps win games easier by playing on the front foot?
This was a glimpse of life without Grealish.
Building a Grealish Team
Steve Bruce had talked in preseason about building a team around Grealish, but in reality all he did was build a team behind Grealish.
Wembley highlighted that fact. Too many times Grealish received the ball and began to take on the omnipresent swarm of Fulham players around him, while Villa’s midfielders seemed reluctant to offer themselves in support to the side of him or break into the vast space in the final third ahead of their surrounded teammate.
Instead, they preferred to cautiously hold their defensive shape behind him.
This was happening after Villa were 1-0 down and continued well into the second half.
If Villa’s midfield, especially Conor Hourihane was allowed to tune into Grealish’s frequency, once he came back from injury, then I think we potentially would have had a different finish to the season.
The season has passed though and will now be filed under ‘wasted opportunity’.
So now to the FFP panic and this social media mantra of ‘We Have to Sell Grealish’ to save ourselves.
How true is this exactly? Or is the reality more a case of so long to the Premier League high-wage loan signings like John Terry and Robert Snodgrass? And the end of bullying other Championship teams out of their best players by overpaying both the club and player.
The wages of the likes of Gabby, Terry, Snodgrass, Hutton, Grabban, Onomah, Bunn and Johnstone are already off the books, which is around £1 million a month. This along with Jordan Amavi’s permanent transfer fee (£8m/9m) will offset most of the drop in parachute payments from last season, not that Villa should have been relying on them anyway.
In terms of replenishing the squad, first Bruce needs to rationalise why only one (Hourihane) of his permanent signings from the January 2017 window, that was billed as providing Villa’s future team, started the play-off final?
The other players bought during that window, Neil Taylor, Henri Lansbury, Scott Hogan, Birkir Bjarnason and James Bree have all struggled this season and it’s arguable that bar Taylor, all have suffered due to the style Bruce has elected to play. So, why did he buy them in the first place?
Grealish’s Immediate Career
In terms of the arc of the career of Grealish, Villa is still the perfect club for him. Assuming he wants to stay, of course. Being a genuine supporter since he was a kid, there is meaning for him to play for the club. A win for Villa is worth more than a win for anyone else. Winning promotion with Villa is something he’d never forget. A true footballing achievement. Claret and blue immortality.
Grealish has been hyped seemingly ever since he came out of his mother’s womb. His consistency and impressive evolution into a box-to-box talent over his 22 starts this season have been the strongest legitimate evidence of his talent so far, to those who have watched him regularly. But having only played half a season, his stats to the outside world won’t be as impressive.
The headline of ‘three goals and six assists’ won’t impress too many clubs looking to drop £40m on a player. Lets be realistic here.
The newspaper rumour of Leicester City’s interest is directly linked to the expectation of Riyad Mahrez joining Manchester City for around £60m. Leicester City will have the money and the need for like-for-like replacement for Mahrez, which Grealish could potentially be.
While Leicester City have been run more successfully by their oversea’s owner, in footballing reality, it’s currently a smaller supporter base with a stadium 10,000 seats shy of Villa Park.
While his wage would be much improved, what’s the mission here for Grealish? Time is on the player’s side and he can bum around the mid-table regions of the Premier League collecting money with ultimately a smaller club than Villa, any time he chooses.
At Villa, he has a very rare chance of creating a legacy and putting the club back on the map.
Grealish has Villa blood, so it’s not the same as reluctantly selling the likes of David Platt, Ashley Young, Dwight Yorke, Gareth Barry and James Milner, who were all adopted sons of Villa.
Time is on his side, another season at Villa wouldn’t hurt his career and there’s always a ‘get out clause’ of the January window, if Villa aren’t showing any signs of being a promotion team.
If Tony Xia is keen on pushing through any Grealish sale for short-term business reasons, then he will essentially be rubber-stamping his failure so far of running Aston Villa football club.
For all the PR payoff of his cute tweeting in seducing a certain sector of fans in the virtual world, in the cold light of day, in the real world, his Villa project is still a non-starter. Even the Birmingham Mail will soon grow tired of running their monthly ‘Tony Xia’s Exciting North Stand Plans’ story soon.
His recent statement pointed the finger at the previous ten years of Villa, when the reality is after the club’s failed short-termism spend in his first couple of seasons, he’s reached the austerity stage of owning Villa in around a third of the time that Lerner did.
His Twitter account, the selection of Robert Di Matteo and the John Terry signing have all had one eye on catching people’s attention here and back in China, but as they say about football, it’s a results driven industry. What happens on the pitch feeds directly into the scope of the business off it; the rest is just smoke and mirrors.
Chinese-owned and increasing outsourced as a business, the only current visible genuine beating heart of Aston Villa Football Club at the moment is the home-grown talent of Grealish. Such players are rare in the modern game and he proved this season and at Wembley, that he can spearhead the future of the club on the pitch.
In the NFL, he would be considered a home-grown franchise quarterback – commercially priceless.
Xia hopefully will be smart enough to know this and that the maximum feel good factor and commercial spin-off potential of Villa moving in the right direction, will be with Grealish as the poster boy of the team.
If you want to balance the books, the quickest route is by gaining promotion and the one player that will give Villa the best chance of that is Jack Grealish.
Follow MOMS on Twitter at: @oldmansaid