Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish grabbed plenty of attention in Villa’s semi-final win over Liverpool as the 19 year old put on an impressive performance in only his fifth start for the club this season. Although, many may not know that the winger has FA Cup history in his family as he is a descendent of a former Villa player and FA Cup winner Billy Garraty. There isn’t much more inspiration and motivation a young player could have to want to reach an FA Cup final than the thought that your great great-grandfather once lifted the prestigious trophy.
Rewind back to the 15th of April 1905 and Aston Villa were alongside Newcastle United in the 34th FA Cup final which was held at Crystal Palace in London. It was the biggest event in English football at this time and there was over 101,000 spectators at the game including fans clinging to trees just so that they could watch the final take place. It turned out to be an easy enough win for Aston Villa as they took the lead after two minutes through Harry Hampton before the legendary striker, who scored 215 goals for Villa in his career, scored again in the 76th minute to wrap up the final for his team as Villa lifted their 4th FA Cup trophy.
This legendary Villa side put their names in the history books and amongst these names was a player named Billy Garraty who put on a man of the match performance in the 1904/05 FA Cup final. William “Billy” Garraty made his debut for Villa during the 1897/98 season and went on to make over 224 league appearances in the league while he scored 96 goals for the Villains. Garraty was a hero for the Villains in the 1899/1900 season as Villa retained their title thanks to his 27 league goals which is still today the second highest total of league goals in one season by a Villa player. Garraty can be seen third from the left in the middle row in the picture below.
110 years later, Billy Garraty’s great great-grandson has made it to an FA Cup final with Aston Villa which is their first FA Cup final in 15 years. Jack Grealish found it difficult earlier in the season to get a chance under former Villa boss Paul Lambert and was then dealt a massive blow in the quarter final when he was sent off during Villa’s quarter-final win over West Brom Albion. Although, since Tim Sherwood has taken over at Villa, the Ireland U-21 international has been given a chance to express himself on the pitch for the first team and has proved to be an exciting prospect for Aston Villa. The winger was instrumental during the 84 minutes he played in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool and went off to the sound of Villa fans singing his name. The 19 year old was also praised by Villa boss Sherwood as he stated,
“He could be right up there amongst the best of them. He’s Aston Villa through and through. He lives a couple of miles from the ground, he just wants to play for the club and I want to give him the platform to do that because he’s earned the right.”
Sherwood was spot on when he claimed that Grealish is Villa through and through but we will have to wait and see if he can follow in his ancestors’ footsteps by lifting the FA Cup with Aston Villa. As for the Republic of Ireland, they should do everything in their power to convince this talented youngster to represent the boys in green in the near future.