Premier League

Grealish: I thought I could do what I want off the pitch

The Aston Villa captain has come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of years, but crucially had to mature away from football too

10:24am on Thursday 19th November 2020
Martin Macdonald

England and Aston Villa star Jack Grealish has revealed that he thought he could do what he wanted off the pitch in his younger years, but now sees himself as a role model after maturing.

Over the recent international break, he became one of England's main men, putting in starring performances against Belgium, albeit in defeat, and against Iceland in a 4-0 win on Wednesday.

His showings have left Gareth Southgate with major selection dilemmas when everyone is fit, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling to return to the international fold in the next round of fixtures.

Following the Belgium game, he went viral on social media for a mercurial flick over the head of Thomas Meunier, which summed up the confidence flowing through his veins at the moment.

The talent has certainly always been there for Grealish, but on occasion he has displayed a lack of maturity off the pitch.

He was previously pictured allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide for recreational purposes, while during lockdown in March he crashed his car after breaching government coronavirus regulations to go to a friend's party.

Grealish knows now of his responsibilities both on and off the pitch, and reckons the pressure of being in the limelight impacted him away from the game rather than when playing.

"I didn’t think it was on the pitch but it was more off the pitch that I thought I was Jack from Solihull that could go out and do what you want," he said after the Iceland win.

"As you get older, you learn that you are a hero and role model to younger lads. You need to watch what you are doing.

"That’s not to say that I won’t make mistakes, I probably still will. I feel like I have grown up over the years.

"Hopefully I can carry on doing that. I am a captain of a Premier League club and I just need to take it in my stride. At the moment, I absolutely love my life."

Grealish knows the performances for England have thrust him into the public eye even more, but as for on the pitch troubles, he relishes the pressure of the important games.

"I have really enjoyed coming here," he said about England duty.

"I have started three games in a row which is brilliant. That’s what you want to do when you come away. I feel like I performed at a good level here and I have been given the chance.

25 yrs - AM, W (L) - Aston Villa
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"Usually, it is only Birmingham really [where I am talked about]. I am not blind to it and I can see it myself. That’s just the world we live in and the industry I am in. If you play good football then people call for you to play, it goes all over social media.

"I just have to stay level headed. I know a lot of eyes will now be on myself both on and off the pitch. I am old enough to control myself. The pressure on the pitch is what I love. All these big games, there’s certain people it can affect but I just thrive off it and I love the pressure."

The Aston Villa captain is currently FootballCritic's top performer of the Premier League season so far, earning an average 8.1 FC Rating for his outings so far.

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