Jack Grealish has been the name of many Aston Villa supporters lips lately and for good reason.
‘Super Jack’, as he is affectionately nicknamed, has been nothing short of super since returning from a freak injury that sidelined him for most of the season.
We are truly seeing a different kind of Jack Grealish as of late.
It wasn’t always wine and roses for Grealish at Aston Villa.
His past has been marred with suspect decisions off the pitch, very mediocre performances on the pitch, and a temperament that begged the question: Will Jack Grealish ever live up to the hype?
Maybe it’s too soon to tell, even with his inspired form of late.
By the looks of it, Jack has really turned a corner.
His kidney laceration injury sustained in the early stages of the season was not ideal for anyone associated with Aston Villa.
Steve Bruce said many of times that his team was going to need a strong and talented Number 10 in his system.
Seeing that Grealish was handed the Number 10 before the season started, there must have been something that Steve Bruce saw in Grealish.
Something that many Villa supporters did not see last season.
Grealish did not have a terrible time last season. Sure, Villa would wind up finishing 13th on the table.
Not good enough after Villa spent a large sum of cash to solidify the squad to go right back up into the Premier League. In the 2016/2017 season, Grealish would finish with 5 assists and 5 goals to his name in 31 games played.
Again, not good enough when considering the hype that has surrounded Grealish for most of his footballing career.
The hype has not been unfounded, either.
You could see the flashes of brilliance and individual flair in his game long before the current season.
Even in the 2015/2016 campaign that saw Villa get relegated in shocking style, Grealish seemed to be coming along rather nicely for a 19 year old at the time.
Something was still a miss, however. It wasn’t the publicised pictures of him in a bad state…no, there was something else. Something that a lot of people didn’t stop and realise in the 15/16 season…
Jack Grealish was played as a left-wing/midfielder eight times in 15/16, while only being played as an attacking central midfielder on six occasions.
That fact begs the question of: Have Villa accidentally truncated Grealish’s progress due to playing him out of position in the past? We’ve seen it happen even currently.
Most Villa supporters would have never thought that Birkir Bjarnason would feature as a central defensive midfielder before a healthy Mile Jedinak or even Glenn Whelan.
A massive run of form later, and Birkir now looks like he has played that position all of his life and isn’t letting it go any time soon.
It is very comparable to what we are seeing from ‘Super Jack’ as well.
Grealish had an injury ridden year during that infamous season, as well. An achilles injury, tonsillitis, and another ankle injury made Grealish miss out on 10 games that year.
This was the start of a select few Villa supporters claiming that Grealish was ‘soft’, or not quite fit for playing football at a Premier League level.
There were bountiful claims that Villa should sell him on, make a profit while they could and try to bring in a player who was more talented.
Aren’t we glad that never happened?
Grealish has indeed made some mistakes in his past. I don’t want to know anyone who hasn’t. Mistakes make you the person you are supposed to be.
Although I do not know Jack personally, I really do feel like a lot of Aston Villa supporters forget that he is currently only 22 years of age because he has been lauded as the next star at Villa for such a long time.
What we are seeing now is a maturation process that is almost too good to believe. Jack is playing some of the best football not only that I have seen, but that Villa has seen in a long time.
Long gone are the claims that he is a ‘soft’ footballer. He has looked very strong on the ball as of late. While Jack possesses the guile and trickery to get past an opponent with dribbling skill, we are seeing him shield the ball as if he has done that his entire career. It was not that long ago that he either dribbled past an opponent with pace easily, or was dispossessed by a hard tackle. Jack is now absorbing the physical side of football in the Championship.
When he gets fouled, he springs right back up. He no longer rolls on the ground with his hands up. He gets up, dusts himself off, and gets on with his job. A true sign of maturity and not a common thing to see from a player with his talents.
Grealish has also been getting fouled left, right and center so far since his comeback. No other in the Championship has been fouled more than our ‘Super Jack’.
This points out that opposition players are mindful of exactly how good Grealish is on the ball. He has also been making waves off of the ball, which was also a determent in his game up until this season.
The supporting runs that Jack is now attempting while not in possession of the ball are a sign that he is using his intelligence to make things happen for Villa. In the 3-2 win to Burton Albion last week, Grealish made a run in to the centre of the box to try and meet an Ahmed Elmohamady cross. He absolutely tricked the defender for a beautiful volley into the back of the net.
The run Grealish made saw him make the central defender think he was running towards Elmohamady’s cross, but he quickly cut behind the defender and found himself all alone in the penalty area. This is a great sign of the maturity and smarts that Grealish is beginning to showcase. It may have been there all along for all we know, but it is definitely on display for every Villan to see.
I have a firm belief that the freak injury he sustained this season was a massive wake up call to Jack.
It is almost as if he is starting to play like every game on the pitch could be his last.
When a rare accident of that magnitude happens, you start to think about things in a different light.
In no way am I applauding his injury, but I will say that the injury might have flicked a switch in the head of our ‘Super Jack’.
There aren’t too many things that can happen in life that make you think that everything can come crashing down at any moment. I truly believe this happened to Jack Grealish, and we are seeing the light bulb shine very bright for Jack and for Aston Villa as of late.