Jack Grealish really is a generational talent, and one that for many, will be the source of many a tale as years pass by.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
As the dust settles on another Premier League season, Aston Villa have today cemented their return by remaining in the league at the first time of asking following their return from the Sky Bet Championship.
It was not a one-man-band by any means, and the collective squad came together over a ten-game period to claim results that many, fans of the club included, thought were past Dean Smith’s men.
But, as always, the man in focus, the centre-point of the club, many a game, and more, was Jack Grealish. Slicked back hair, low socks and a pair of child’s shinpads combined into a generational talent that many have never seen at Villa Park.
For myself, and many others around my age, we did not get to see the likes of Dennis Mortimer and Gordon Cowans grace the pitch – and we grew up seeing the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, James Milner, Gareth Barry and more playing in claret and blue – but never actually achieving anything of note other than a strong league finish.
Whilst on a different level, watching Jack Grealish rise through the Aston Villa academy as a sprightly young teenager, before leading them, as captain, to an almighty barn-storming Play-Off Final win and then see as he dropped to his knees cheering as he and his team-mates dispatched Arsenal to put them within one game of Premier League safety, has been an incredible ride.
Whether or not Jack Grealish remains as an Aston Villa player going into the next season remains to be seen. There have been rumours circulating throughout the season about the Aston Villa captain’s future, with interest from larger clubs plain to be seen.
Regardless, watching Jack Grealish blossom into a top-tier Premier League footballer has been sublime to watch. Watching his return of injury against Derby and the many goals, assists and dribbles that came with the exceptional ten-game run, watching him showboat and glide past Premier League defenders, watching him be the most fouled player in the league, in two seperate leagues, two years running – it has all been an incredible journey.
As a younger Aston Villa fan, Grealish is the idol. He is the same age as me, living out my dreams. And whilst he has not achieved ‘silverware’, he has taken this club by the scruff of it’s neck, hoisted it into the top tier of English football, and helped to keep it there – all whilst getting to a Carabao Cup final at the same time.
Whether he decides to move on, or whether he gives us another season of those rolled-down socks. Whether this was his last gift to the club, keeping them in the Premier League, or whether he remains for the entirety of his career, Jack Grealish has written himself into Aston Villa folklore.
In no other club in the country will you find a man that has captivated the entire fan base in the way that Jack has, all whilst being one of them. Children style their hair like the captain, whilst fathers and mothers adorn their shirts with his number.
I’ll tell my grandchildren about the man that made me fall back in love with football, the one that had such an integral role in the resurrection of the club I dedicate so much time and energy to.
I’ll tell them about his knocks, his injuries, his goals, and his assists. The roars, the tears, the fear of losing him every six months. They might not want to hear, and they don’t even exist yet – and probably won’t for at least a quarter of a century – but they’ll be told.
To me, he’s an icon.