At last, England put their faith in a flair player
Grealish could be our Pirlo – make him captain and build the team around him
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