Grealish’s Heart Is Green, He Just Needs A Gentle Shove
So now you know. Now we all know. The secret is out of the bag. Jack Grealish’s breakout performance against Liverpool in last Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final was years in the making. From 15 years of age, the silkily-skilled Brummie was destined to be a star.
It wasn’t an absolute certainty, obviously. Anyone who has followed football for a long time will know fate is a fickle mistress and things don’t always turn out the way it’s supposed to, but from an early age, Jack Grealish was touted as a special talent and everything he has done up until this point has consolidated that view.
The 19-year-old is far from the finished article yet but his performances under Tim Sherwood have caused a stir on both sides of the Irish Sea with his star turn at Wembley pricking the ears of those who were previously unconvinced.
Having struggled to get much game time under a stubborn Paul Lambert, despite woefully lacking a creative spark, Villa, and Lambert, are now seeing exactly what they were missing as he kicked his heels on the bench for much of the season. Something Tim Sherwood deserves immense credit for.
The clamour for his international allegiance is now quickly reaching a cacophony. Having played for the Republic of Ireland from U-14 level through to the U-21s, Grealish comes from a very Irish family.
Although Birmingham-born and bred, his grandparents hail from Kerry and Mayo and his dad Kevin, himself a Brummie, has made sure the family’s roots remain entrenched in that Irishness with his precocious young sons, Jack and Kevan, playing Gaelic football from a young age; Jack even managed an appearance on the hallowed turf of Croke Park at 14 during a Dublin-Kerry game.
His international future remains uncertain, though. Back in October last year, the young forward’s contract at Villa was winding down and new terms were being offered. In a radio interview last night, his father, acting on his behalf at the time, explained that negotiations had become too complicated forcing him to seek the help of a professional agency.
In came Stellar Football Ltd – the group who look after the likes of Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw and Joe Hart – and a new improved long term deal was thrashed out. It also coincided with Grealish announcing he would be taking a step back from international football with Ireland to concentrate on his club career.
Understandable at that juncture seeing as though he hadn’t even started a game for Villa, but it wouldn’t take a genius to assume Stellar were taking a longer term view with their new star client and felt his career may benefit with a switch to Ireland’s more illustrious neighbours, England.
If his career trajectory continues as it has, that logic is sound. He would undoubtedly make more money through sponsorships and endorsements should he play for England rather than Ireland but Grealish is known to be a very level-headed, family-orientated lad with a deep love of his Irish roots.
He has already turned down English overtures before and his comments at the FAI awards a few weeks back would suggest a return to the Irish set-up aren’t far off.
Martin O’Neill has consistently tried to play down the whole saga, giving Grealish time and space to figure things out but now may be the time to step up his efforts.
The Irish squad is in desperate need of new blood and a bona-fide talent.
In Grealish, the country would have a player to build a side around for a decade or more and a star the nation would take to their hearts in the same vein as a Robbie Keane.
It may be beneath a manager of O’Neill’s stature to go cap in hand but this is no time for foolish pride. Tim Sherwood has encouraged Grealish to go with his heart and if the majority of the signs are true, Grealish’s heart is green – he just needs a gentle shove in the right direction.