At last, Eng­land put their faith in a flair player

Gre­al­ish could be our Pirlo – make him cap­tain and build the team around him

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Alan Hud­son

About time. Hang out the bunting, set off the fire­works: Jack Gre­al­ish has been brought in to the Eng­land squad. It may be a late call-up, a re­place­ment be­cause oth­ers are un­avail­able, but I have ad­vice for Gareth South­gate: Don’t sit him on the bench. Give him the No10 shirt, build the en­tire team around him. He is that good.

I am not an easy per­son to please, you will not hear me bang­ing on about the new golden gen­er­a­tion, but I have be­come con­vinced that Jack is the best mid­fielder the coun­try has pro­duced since Paul Gas­coigne.

For me, he could be bet­ter than Frank Lampard or Steven Ger­rard – at in­ter­na­tional level, that is, for he was born for that stage. In that re­spect, he is much like Bobby

Moore, who al­ways rose to the chal­lenge, a far bet­ter in­ter­na­tional than club player.

I do not know Jack but, over the past cou­ple of years, I feared that his­tory was re­peat­ing it­self. What was go­ing on re­minded me of what I went through in the 1970s. Back then, Eng­land man­agers such as Don Re­vie rou­tinely ig­nored play­ers like me, Stan Bowles, Frank Wor­thing­ton, Tony Cur­rie, Peter Os­good and Rod­ney Marsh. They saw us as mav­er­icks, likely to rock the boat. They pre­ferred ro­bots to foot­ballers. On the rare oc­ca­sions we got a chance, like I did against West Ger­many in 1975, it did not mat­ter how well we did, there was never a sec­ond op­por­tu­nity.

Any ex­cuse was found to keep us out: “He’s got no fight, no bot­tle, he won’t roll his sleeves up and work.”

As Tony Wadding­ton, my man­ager at Stoke, would have told the Eng­land man­age­ment, that was non­sense. But I was kept out.

I had hoped we as a na­tion had come to ad­mire skill and learnt from our past mis­takes, where we fell down through ig­nor­ing the cre­ativ­ity of a player like Jack the Lad. But 50 years on, I feared those days had never re­ally gone away. I feared there was some­thing about the hi­er­ar­chy of the English game that still dis­trusts tal­ent.

In ev­ery squad, some­one was picked ahead of him. I have long reck­oned if he were given the op­por­tu­nity in­ter­na­tion­ally he would shine. The big­ger the stage, the bet­ter this lad would be. You could see that at As­ton Villa last sea­son. Dean Smith gave him the cap­taincy and how he rose to the

chal­lenge. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say he kept Villa in the Premier League. He is a leader. Smith was right to build the team around him.

I would do the same with Eng­land. Put the arm­band on him and watch him fly. He could be our An­drea Pirlo. For­get tac­tics, meth­ods, plans and Christ­mas-tree for­ma­tions, foot­ball is a sim­ple game. In fact, in this coun­try it is a sim­ple game all too of­ten com­pli­cated by id­iots. The im­por­tant thing now is to en­sure the id­iots do not get a chance to com­pli­cate Jack. Just tell him to get out there and play his game, and we will reap the re­ward.

He could be as in­flu­en­tial for Eng­land as David Silva was for Manch­ester City. But if those in charge do not give him the op­por­tu­nity, we will never know.

In this coun­try foot­ball is a sim­ple game all too of­ten com­pli­cated by id­iots

Mav­er­icks: Jack Gre­al­ish’s call-up to the Eng­land squad is long over­due, ac­cord­ing to Alan Hud­son (be­low), a player sim­i­larly of­ten over­looked in the 1970s

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