Jack Grealish may be focused on his football in England and Man City but not us. That can be a problem.
It is around this stage of the big competition that the football fans start watching football. You might well end up being in the minority in England if you don’t tune in to watch Gareth Southgate’s men play France on Saturday.
Most casual observers won’t be able to name all the England players. Most will be able to choose Harry Kane, many will know Harry Maguire, but perhaps the most famous face and name will start on the bench.
Jack Grealish is a perfect product for the tabloids – a good-looking, cheeky Brummie who likes to drink, speaks his mind and winds up Graeme Souness in no time.
The fact that he doesn’t actually play much football is beside the point for those who collect the clicks, but it could start to become a problem for Grealish who, without minutes on the pitch in actual football, will continue to be cast as metrosexual. a cheerleader for club and country, with a party-boy reputation that does little to disprove.
As Grealish says, he has a “good heart”, as evidenced by his celebration of Finlay Fisher and regretting the “stupid things” he does when he’s in the p*ss. But in the same interview, which a reporter took as a common title, Grealish confirmed – as a stag do rep in Benidorm – that “it will be one hell of a week or two” if England win the World Cup.
It’s the kind of response that makes us naturally warm to him – it’s good to think about football players enjoying what can give us so much joy. But it’s also a shame that he feels the need to somehow answer a question that’s clearly meant to remove Jack the Lad from Jack the professional footballer, who is certainly focused on winning. World Cup, rather than possibly after a few drinks.
Not that Grealish actually needs to ‘focus on football’ as Souness and other self-proclaimed football tough-guys insist, but to paint that picture, answering questions with cheeky eyes and The smile to suggest lack of skill is actually wider than the mark.
Jack Grealish celebrates Credit: Alamy
Grealish may not care about the gap between public perception and reality, but being increasingly framed as an entertainer seems to coincide with the stagnation of his career. There may be self-fulfilling elements at play here, with Grealish feeling the need to play the role he has conspired with the media to create the man who enjoys the football life more than football.
Euro 2020 saw Grealish cast as the unlucky member of the Three Lions that Gareth Southgate should have started but didn’t. It now seems to be accepted, by England fans and even Grealish himself, that he is no more than an influential player in this World Cup squad.
“When I come here all the boys say if we’re drawing at half-time, ‘make sure you’re ready’ and it makes you feel like they want you, it makes me feel good,” Grealish said. .
It’s a similar story for Manchester City, who have started just six of their 16 Premier League games this season. Reports suggest Grealish is frustrated at his lack of time with Pep Guardiola, who is reportedly willing to sell him on just 18 months for a £100m move to the Etihad to fund a move for Jude Bellingham.
Facing an exit, who would want to sign Grealish? He hasn’t played much football or claimed many goals or assists in the past 18 months, with memories of Grealish’s City era more likely to argue with Souness and the drunken Newcastle players than anything he did on the football pitch.
We’re not suggesting that Jack Grealish stop being Jack Grealish – it’s worked well for him so far – and if you’ve ever heard us say that every footballer should ‘focus on their ball’ you can get off our backs our problem. But maybe he should be kind to himself and stop talking about his analysis outside the field, to allow us – as well as the people who are able to improve his deteriorating career – to focus on football.
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