Spotlight: Jack Grealish – The Return Of The King & Villa’s Talisman.

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Contributed by Matt Frankish | Editor: Dan Rogers


Last week came the news all Villa fans had been waiting for, with Jack Grealish finally being declared fit to play.

Villa had endured a torrid run of form in his absence, with the high tempo attacking play that had characterised the start of Dean Smith’s era quickly falling by the wayside.

Instead, it was replaced with the sort of predictable, turgid ‘hoofball’ that had become the hallmark of the man in the dugout at the start of the season.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

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Over the 13 games Villa were without Grealish, under Smith we won only two, drew 7 and lost 4.

Compare this to the 6 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses amassed with Jack in the team and it’s clear to see that the difference he makes cannot be stressed enough.

Villa’s previously free scoring attack (2.5 goals a game) also suffered in this period, dropping to 1.23 goals per game.

DEMOLITION DERBY

There was some talk about whether or not he should start against Derby given the length of his injury and worries about his fitness, but it’s fair to say the midfielder picked up where he left off.

The first goal of the game came on the 9 minute mark, with Grealish twisting and turning before clipping a perfectly weighted through ball over the Derby defence.

It was met by Abraham who poked it into the path of Hourihane, the Irishman duly put the ball into the net and immediately it was glaring what we had been lacking in previous weeks.

Without Grealish in the team, Villa are slow and ponderous in the build up, with him, we are anything but.

Whether he’s dropping deep to carry the ball upfield, playing defence splitting through balls or simply occupying the opposition players and opening up gaps for our own; he’s essential to everything that is good about us.

As the game against Derby wore on, Villa were in the ascendancy for the large part, with the visitors struggling to make anything happen and finding themselves almost perpetually defending.

Albert Adomah had a brilliant chance to make it 2-0 after the Derby defence were caught flat footed but his effort flew over the bar from 10 yards or so out.

The second goal seemed almost an inevitability and it came at the 37 minute mark.

The much criticised Glenn Whelan (who has been excellent in recent weeks) picked the ball up deep in his own half, looked up and played a pass through to Hourihane who in turn swept the ball up the pitch for Elmohamady to chase.

The Egyptian then played an inch perfect cross into the path of Abraham and the 21 goal man could barely miss.

This was a brilliant, sweeping move from Villa and it was good to see two players who are often the receiving end of criticism, in Elmohamady and Whelan, involved.

After that the proverbial floodgates opened with Hourihane scoring another after some good work from Abraham following a long punt upfield from Jed Steer, and then came the pick of the bunch.

Direct from a corner Whelan floated the ball towards the edge of the box, without breaking his stride Grealish ran onto it made a near perfect connection and the ball flew into the top left corner.

It was truly a special moment and a special goal that will live long in the memory of anyone at Villa Park that day. To be there to witness a lifelong Villa fan, both captain his team for the first time and score a goal of such quality, was nothing short of a privilege.

TALISMAN

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The scenes that followed were telling of the impact Grealish has on us as a club with all 11 players running over to join in the celebrations with the coaching staff.

If the truth be told, discounting his ability on the pitch, Grealish seems to have an aura about him that drives both fans and players on.

Every Villa player on the pitch seemed to have gained an extra yard of pace, 50/50’s were suddenly being contested and the atmosphere in the stands was markedly improved.

The word talisman is thrown around a lot in football nowadays, but on this showing, it could well be the case. 

The impact that one player can have upon a team is quite truly astounding; with Villa being almost unrecognisable against Derby compared to our previous few fixtures.

Of course, this reliance is a double edged sword, with uncertainty over whether we’ll keep hold of our star man over the summer should we fail to navigate our way back into the Premier League.

For now though we should simply enjoy him for what he is, a truly exceptional player, Villa through and through and ours.

Watching Grealish come through the ranks has been a rare moment of respite in an otherwise dreadful period for the club and it’s great to have him back.

Now onto Blues next weekend, with the perfect captain to lead us out, UTV!


Contributed by Matt Frankish | Editor: Dan Rogers


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