A year ago, Jack Grealish had the world at his feet.
His manager at the time, Tim Sherwood, had given him his chance in the Aston Villa first team and he had grabbed it with both hands.
Villa were on a run that saw them survive in the Premier League, and they had also reached the FA cup final. Grealish was a young player getting his chance in the Premier League and was now on his way to a date at Wembley at just 19 years of age, with the possibility of picking up his first trophy at Villa. Most players go through their career without ever reaching such an event.
International football also came calling with both the Republic of Ireland and England vying for his services.
He had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame, and Manchester City and Chelsea were rumoured to be lining up summer moves. With the prospect of playing for a top side in the Champions League and the possibility of playing at the European Championships in France with the country of his choosing, life looked pretty good for Grealish.
One year on, both the Republic of Ireland and England have qualified for France, and Grealish has decided to represent England despite playing for the Republic of Ireland at under age level.
Speaking after his decision last year Grealish said:
“It was not an easy decision as Ireland has a special place with me through my family. But I have decided to represent the country of my birth.”
However, it looks unlikely that Roy Hodgson will even select him. Since Villa lost that FA cup final, they have declined badly, sacking manager Tim Sherwood and facing life in the Championship next season.
Grealish has not only declined, he has gone completely off the radar. Both Martin O’Neill and Roy Hodgson have better options for Euro 2016, and Grealish would be an outside shot to make either squad- a far cry from the young kid who burst on the scene a year ago lined out at Wembley in a cup final with two nations chasing him..
How has Grealish taken such a step backwards when his future looked so bright? His problems this season started when he was pictured looking worse for wear while on holiday after the season had ended.
Grealish was summoned to a meeting with Villa’s chief executive Tom Fox and was reminded of his responsibilities following further unwanted publicity for the teenager. He was reportedly photographed lying passed out drunk on the street while on holiday in Tenerife, although sources close to Grealish insisted it was a practical joke that backfired and that he was not “paralytic”.
Grealish had already been warned over his conduct by Tim Sherwood, the Villa manager, after he was photographed inhaling nitrous oxide, commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ earlier on in the season as had Raheem Sterling while at Liverpool.
Grealish suffered a lack of form in the early part of this season as Villa struggled to find their way. Manager Tim Sherwood was sacked and French Manager Remi Garde came in. Grealish had lost the manager who had given him his chance and the man who believed in him most.
Grealish did himself no favours with Garde when, after a 4-0 defeat at Everton’s Goodison Park, he went out for the weekend with pals and got himself photographed in a nightclub. This understandably did not go down well with Garde or the Villa fans, who were and still are deep in a relegation battle. Grealish was demoted to the Under 21’s as a punishment, and was later recalled to the first team squad after talks with Remi Garde. A source close to Grealish was quoted as saying that Grealish was made to feel like a “scapegoat” for the collective failings of the team, however Grealish denied these claims.
Former Villa player Paul Merson has reached out to Grealish offering to have a word and help him as he struggles to adapt to the fame and pressures of playing in the Premier League. Although he is only a 20, he has to remember his responsibilities and focus on his career.
Merson said on Sky Sports News HQ: “The lad needs to sit down with someone. I think he needs to sit down with someone who has been in that position. I’d like to sit down with him for an hour.
“He’s got unbelievable talent. He’s a good player, but it soon goes. It’s the best job in the world, playing football, and someone needs to sit him down and say: ‘This goes very quickly.’
I’d love to sit down with him for an hour, and go through my experience. I would say to him: ‘For the next 10 years of your life give it everything, you’ve got to grasp hold of this.’
I’ll get him back on the straight and narrow.”
However such meetings never took place:
“His agent called me on Friday and said: ‘He wants to meet you and have a chat.’ I was supposed to meet him [on Wednesday] and it didn’t happen. I’m not chasing around now.
I said I’d talk [with him] and that’s it. If he wants to talk he’ll talk, that’s completely up to him.”
His agent had set up a meeting but Grealish failed to show.
Whoever Grealish decides to talk too, he needs to do it quick.
In the year when both the Republic of Ireland and England were preparing for the European Championships, he should have been fully focused on making either squad.
He has decided to represent England, but FIFA say paperwork has still not been finalised meaning Ireland still have a chance with Grealish. However, given his form and attitude, I highly doubt Martin O’Neill will be rushing to sign him up now.
Roy Hodgson too is deciding his squad and Grealish need not worry about a call up messing up his summer plans.
Jack Grealish will possibly head back to Tenerife this summer with his pals when he should be at Euro 2016 on one of the greatest international stages playing with the best footballers in European football.
However far away he will be, no doubt his mind will be focused on a (very likely) relegated Aston Villa, being frozen out by a manager who does not believe in him, and facing the possibility of ending up on the football scrap heap at the age of 20.
Sure, he is young and he is not the first young footballer to let fame and money go to his head at such a tender young age. Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Paul Merson himself are just some of many who have gone down that road and realised the harm their lifestyle is having on their career.
Grealish should use this summer to focus on which way he wants his career to go. Qualifying for the World Cup 2018 starts in September and Grealish should use that as an incentive to make sure he is a certainty for Russia 2018, and maybe he should take Paul Merson up on that offer.