Like a Pokémon, Jack Grealish has reached his third, and final evolution. If there was any argument to the contrary, there isn’t now. He’s an Aston Villa icon.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
Countless shirts purchased, hundreds of haircuts copied, a song that is sung at the top of one’s lungs. If there was any doubt about it before, there isn’t now. Jack Grealish is an Aston Villa icon.
From the young lad who pulled on his socks at Notts County, to the youngster who bossed the midfield against Liverpool en-route to the FA Cup final, to now. The bearded man who captained his boyhood club to victory against their fiercest rivals, Birmingham City.
Last week against Derby County, the silky midfielder scored a wonder-goal to announce himself back from injury, as well as providing an exquisite ball into the path of Tammy Abraham for Conor Hourihane’s first goal. He relished the opportunity to lead the club he supports on to the pitch.
This weekend, things were a little more heated. Early into the Second City Derby, an idiotic Birmingham City fan ran on to the pitch and tried to connect a cowardly punch from behind on Jack Grealish, which didn’t exactly connect, but knocked the Aston Villa captain to the floor.
A number of years ago, Jack’s reaction would have been much different. But he sat on the floor, grinning as the ‘fan’ was escorted away from the pitch and towards a holding cell, whilst the furore to the side of him continued as the rival teams argued around the referee.
Let that sink in. He grinned. It could have been a much different story. Had the punch connected, or in the instance that the fan had a blade, this could have been a harrowing affair. But Grealish didn’t react. He sat down. And he grinned.
Since the game finished, Aston Villa have released a statement condemning the fans actions, and Jack has said “he understands rivalries, but there’s no place for that in football.”
He went about his manner for the entire game, arguing with the referee when it was necessary and lead by example before being substituted off for Birkir Bjarnason.
Jack Grealish has always been an Aston Villa favourite, because of his youthful connections for the club. Even when he was on loan at Notts County, there was still a buzz, a hype, around him. But he’s truly come on strides since then.
Opposition fans sit and exclaim that he’s nothing special, simply because of his goals and assists ratios. He’s certainly quietened them with two goals in two games. Scoring against the team he’s been brought up to detest was almost divine intervention after the earlier events of the affair. But he brings a buzz to the fans, he opens up space for his team-mates, and he glides with the ball into space at times like a mouse scurrying into a hole in the wall.
Since taking the captain’s armband, this new ‘evolution’ of Jack Grealish is nothing short of special. He’s more than special. He’s everything the fans want him to be for the club.