Grealish’s long layoff, since being forced off at The Hawthorns in December, has coincided with a collapse in Villa’s promotion campaign.
Since then, Villa have looked a shadow of a side that looked to have finally found form and flair.
To compound matters, Jack’s injury coincided with both Axel Tuanzebe & James Chester breaking down.
Grealish’s road to recovery has been a long one, carefully managed due to the initial lack of clarity on the injury itself, followed by the necessity to allow his shin to be placed into a protective boot.
The creative midfielder has undergone intensive rehabilitation in recent weeks, with plenty of non-contact fitness and strengthening work having been undertaken. This included a spell of warm weather specialist training in Dubai.
Positive news came prior to the weekend defeat to West Brom at Villa Park (0-2), in which Smith indicated that Grealish had returned to ball-work in training.
The feeling is that Jack wasn’t quite ready, nor worth risking in the derby, with the upcoming away trip to Stoke being viewed as both more realistic and less risk.
Grealish returns into a Villa side bereft of confidence, on a dismal run of form and which may likely have already seen it’s opportunity for making the playoff places scuppered.
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