Englands Jack Grealish on capturing the imagination EURO 2020

Author : esmeraldacalhounnew
Publish Date : 2021-07-03 11:01:25
Englands Jack Grealish on capturing the imagination EURO 2020

England's Jack Grealish on capturing the imagination of a nation at EURO 2020
Saturday 3 July 2021

"I just try and play every game as if I'm playing Under-18s or Under-23s football at Villa," the 'Brum town Baggio' tells EURO2020.com.

Jack Grealish: shades of David Beckham
Jack Grealish: shades of David Beckham
UEFA via Getty Images
If a computer were creating a composite footballer to capture the imagination of England supporters, it is quite easy to imagine it coming up with Jack Grealish.


After all, you have got the echoes of past heroes with David Beckham’s No7 and shiny hair, the dribbling ability redolent of Paul Gascoigne, and, well, take your pick of 1970s showmen for the socks slung low on those big calves. There's even a song in his honour by the Manor, titled simply Jack Grealish and featuring the phrase "Brum town Baggio" in honour of the Birmingham-born Aston Villa skipper.

See Kane and England celebrations
All that said, the 25-year-old is his own man. Within the strict parameters of today's elite football, with all its science and data and systems, he offers something of the free spirit. Off the pitch, it’s fair to say he is seldom first down for breakfast in the morning. And he is usually among the last out for training at St George's Park. (Back at Villa, when his manager Dean Smith moved the time of training to midday each day citing the sleeping patterns of today's young footballers, it is hard to envisage Grealish, his captain, complaining).

That sense of a free spirit comes across in conversation with Grealish. His love of an afternoon nap meant newspaper reporters at St George's Park on Thursday had to wait a little longer than scheduled for his appearance but he was worth the wait: open and unguarded, raising laughs as he pictured himself as a nightclub promoter "in Tenerife or Ibiza" had his football dreams not come true. As a colleague noted afterwards, it was like chatting to a bloke in the pub.

Grealish relishing England spotlight
This is not to underplay Grealish’s dedication – on his first call-up he asked Southgate what specific improvements he could make "to get into his side", such as his work off the ball. And yet that free spirit is seen on matchdays too. When fans call his name, as they did before he took the pitch as a substitute against Scotland and Germany, he insists he feels no pressure. As he told EURO2020.com earlier in the tournament: "I just try and play every game as if I'm playing Under-18s or Under-23s football at Villa." He added: "You know, I've done it my whole life, so why would I change the way I play, or the way I do stuff, just because it's a bigger game, maybe?"

He certainly did stuff against Germany after his 69th-minute introduction in the round of 16. He moved the ball on to Luke Shaw to cross for Raheem Sterling's goal in the 75th minute. Eleven minutes later came his own centre for Harry Kane to score. Little wonder he was too excited to sleep that night, staying awake till 4am re-watching the whole match.

His was only the fourth assist by an England substitute at a major tournament in the past 50 years. Two came at the 1986 FIFA World Cup – Gary Stevens and John Barnes providing for Gary Lineker against Paraguay and Argentina respectively – and the third was a Theo Walcott run and cross for Danny Welbeck’s goal against Sweden at EURO 2012.

Skill of the Day: Jack Grealish (England)
"I don't think it's any secret to anyone why the manager brought me on and that was to try and create something," Grealish told EURO2020.com of his impact. It means that from 115 minutes on the pitch so far in the tournament, he has two assists (the other coming from his only start against the Czech Republic) along with three take-ons, all successful.

This will increase calls for him to start the quarter-final against Ukraine but that is far from guaranteed and not just for England's "scary" (Grealish’s word) attacking options. The shin complaint which meant he arrived at the EURO having started only two Villa games since February still requires a little management. There is also the appeal of using Grealish to come on and run at tiring defences.

If he does have to don the super-sub cape again, he will be ready. "I don't think you really need any mindset," he said of adjusting to that role. "It's a team game. I wasn't in the starting XI [against Germany] and was on the bench, so you're going to come on and try and impact the game. Whether you're an attacker or a defender, that's what you're going to do. If you're a defender, you're going to defend for your life, and if you're an attacker, you're going to want to try and score or create. And, fortunately, I did that." Worth the wait, once more.

David James: England and Jordan Pickford look to be in the zone
Saturday 3 July 2021 by David James

A quarter-finalist with England in 2004, EURO2020.com columnist and former goalkeeper David James says current No1 Jordan Pickford is an increasingly reassuring presence between the posts.


I was certainly buzzing for a day or two after that win against Germany. It was almost the perfect performance from England – the game plan was executed superbly, to a man. This is a team playing as a team, not as a collection of individuals. They look to have such a good connection throughout the squad.

Gareth Southgate's selection against Germany was more defensive than many expected – considering the attacking options at his disposal – but after that performance it all made sense. Germany are a team capable of scoring goals and causing problems; England kept a clean sheet and, in many ways, controlled the game.

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Jordan Pickford put in another excellent display, too. He always has a lot of scrutiny on him as the England goalkeeper, but I just didn’t see some of the mistakes people were suggesting he had made during the season.

Jordan Pickford takes a breather during England training 
Jordan Pickford takes a breather during England training
The FA via Getty Images
I’ve heard that he’s been seeing a sports psychologist, which is absolutely right. I had one back in 2000 and it transformed my career – to the point that I got back into the England squad and managed to get 52 caps out of it. That side of the game really is as important as any of the physical stuff.

I’m not sure what Jordan has done with his psychologist, but a lot of the work I did was about imagery. That’s all about imagining the possible scenarios you might encounter – I used to do it in my car, in the shower, sat at home or in a hotel room. You can just go through a game plan in your head – it’s a mental practice which you can go through that can save you going on to the training field for eight hours.

Self-talk is another thing. All these things are about having thought about what you’re going to do in any particular moment on the pitch. You’re still going to have to react, but you’re halfway there because you’ve already imagined it.

When you reach the peak as a goalkeeper, when you’re really in the zone, you actually don’t know what’s going on. It’s such a weird feeling – you miss all the good bits! It’s scary. I’ve played games when my perception of time went entirely because I was just so in the zone, so in the game. It’s the best place to be because all you’re doing is focusing on what’s in front of you, nothing else.

Jordan Pickford (left) reacts after Thomas Müller's missed chance for Germany
Jordan Pickford (left) reacts after Thomas Müller's missed chance for Germany
Getty Images
Perhaps Pickford’s best moment of EURO so far was that Thomas Müller one-on-one. There was a moment where he could’ve lost his head and committed himself in a way that would have been advantageous to Müller, but he didn’t. He forced Müller into an awkward shot. It’s one of those moments where I look at what he did and think he got it spot on. He’s had his hot-headed moments but there’s no doubt he’s learnt from those. I’ve got full confidence in him.

You can’t get away from the fact that this – Ukraine in Rome on Saturday – is a EURO quarter-final, but England are preparing to play one game. You go out there and play the game in front of you. The crowd, the excitement around the country, is just the backdrop to what you’ve got to do. All the euphoria can wait. Deal with the game and then enjoy what follows.



Category : sports

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