Another England squad was announced on Tuesday with the name of Jack Grealish not listed once again.
The Aston Villa captain is yet to be called up to the senior England team since opting to switch allegiances from the Republic of Ireland way back in 2016, despite impressive form and top performances for his club side in both the Premier League and Championship.
After missing out on the squad last season, Gareth Southgate said that it was simply because the player needed more top level experience. Grealish was then promoted to the Premier League and was one of the best performing playmakers throughout the season, yet still wasn’t called up.
When the squad was announced on Tuesday, there was space for the debuts of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood but not for Jack Grealish. The manager faced criticism for the decision, although he explained during his press conference
“With Jack [Grealish], the simple answer is Mason Greenwood. He’s competing in my view against Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling. I know Villa have played him as an eight but I don’t see him in that role for us.“
It’s an interesting response from Southgate, who also selected Harry Kane, Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham as attackers in his 23-man squad. Kane and Ings are obvious choices, with Kane being England’s best striker and Ings having the best season of his career. Abraham however saw himself lose his place in the team to Olivier Giroud, while Grealish scored the goal that kept Aston Villa in the Premier League on the final day.
While Greenwood’s short career has been spent mainly on the right-wing for Manchester United, he is a natural number 9 and has scored goals there freely whenever he has played. Would anyone have caused a ruckus if Grealish was called up ahead of Tammy Abraham? Nope, because one deserves it and one probably doesn’t.
Not only that, but considering Grealish as only a winger is a weird shout. He was moved there by Villa boss Dean Smith as a way to get him closer to goal, so he can effect the game more for a side fighting to survive. For England, Southgate wants to dominate the ball and control games. In 80% of games, they’ll likely be the stronger team on the pitch so you can most definitely place Grealish back into his preferred central role. His ball retention is excellent, he can beat players one-on-one in central positions and would add extra creativity to a midfield currently bereft of it.
Southgate mentioned that Aston Villa fans already dislike him following his move to Middlesbrough as a player, then was quick to state that it’s nothing to do with the club since he also picked Tyrone Mings. But there is something fishy about the decision not to pick Grealish.
The arguments he’s used previously he’s now gone against too, since he picked Kelvin Phillips of Leeds without him having ever played a Premier League game before.
Grealish has earned his opportunity to, at the bare minimum, be called into the squad. Nobody is claiming he should be a sure-fire starter for the national team but if he can’t even get into a 23-man squad at this point he probably never will.
At 24 years old, maybe Grealish will need to consider putting his tin-hat on and crawling back to the green of the Republic of Ireland in order to get himself an international career.