LAST week, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was dropped from the first-team squad by manager Remi Garde, after the 20-year old was spotted partying until the early hours with friends in a Manchester club who were inhaling nitrous oxide. Grealish is expected to train with the under-21s for the foreseeable future. Gryphon sport editors Fiona Tomas and Nancy Gillen discuss whether, in a climate where English League managers are increasingly becoming scrutinized by club Chairmen on their decision making and player selections, whether it was the right decision.
Yes – Fiona Tomas
There aren’t many worse ways to celebrate a 4-0 defeat than by going on a boozy night out with friends who inhale ‘hippy crack’ – more commonly known as laughing gas – only for it to be filmed and strewn across social media the next morning. That’s all before being dropped from the first-team squad by your manager. This is the latest chapter in the ever-deteriorating storyline of Jack Grealish’s footballing career, which underlines his reputation off the pitch rather than on it.
After playing a key role in helping his side survive the relegation drop last season, Grealish was snapped on holiday in Marbella with a £1,000 bottle of Ciroc Vodka. This was only days after he was photographed unconscious – allegedly intoxicated by alcohol – on a street in Tenerife with packets of cigarettes next to him.
When sports professionals are shown up in sticky situations such as this, fans can be quick to show their support. Footballers, they say, like everyone else, have the right to socialise freely when not on the pitch, to drink, enjoy themselves. They, like us, are human and the pressures to consistently perform and train to a high standard can evidently take their toll.
It’s clear that the 20-year old youngster badly needs a lesson in self-discipline. Here is a young lad who is degrading his prospects of becoming one of England’s finest domestic players. He made a name for himself at Villa as the most talented player to emerge from Villa’s academy in recent years. He also played a pivotal role in his side’s successful battle against relegation last season, which thrust him into the middle of a tug-of-war affair between England and the Republic of Ireland. Maybe he refused Martin O’Neill’s offer to play for the RoI because he’s scared of his right-hand man Roy Keane, who I imagine would think of a much harsher punishment for Grealish’s behaviour. It’s obvious that Rémi Garde has had enough and his decision in demoting the youngster was the right thing to do.
For now, Grealish belongs where he is – playing alongside what are most probably more mature and capable twenty-year-olds at Villa. He has a lot more learning to do before earning the trust of his manager and fellow players, and most importantly, the chance to play on the big stage.
NO – Nancy Gillen
There can be no denying that Jack Grealish’s behaviour after Aston Villa’s 4-0 loss against Everton was disgraceful. After a poor performance on the pitch, Grealish did not travel back to Birmingham with the team, but went to Manchester to go out partying.
After similar incidents over summer, manager Rémi Garde has seen it fit to drop Grealish to the U-21s side, with no foreseeable return. Although a punishment needs to be undertaken, I see dropping Grealish as detrimental both to his development as a player and to Aston Villa’s chances of avoiding relegation.
Grealish burst onto the scene in the 2014-15 season, starting his first Premier League game in April in which he played excellently. His stand out performance then came in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, with Grealish having a hand in both Villa goals, showing that he could perform at the highest level. Therefore, despite his off-field behaviour, I feel that Grealish needs to continue playing at a level where he can improve and develop as a player. His talent is already notable for someone so young, and games against the top teams of English football will help him hone his skills to become a great footballer. Dropping him down to the U-21 side, a level which he has already grown out of, may stunt his progress.
In addition, Aston Villa are currently in a position where they cannot afford to lose good players. They currently lie at the bottom of the table with only one win, five points off 19th place Newcastle. Things are not looking good. I will admit that Grealish’s performances have not been up to scratch this season, but he could still be the instrumental player to turn this all around. The team need players of his quality to get out of the relegation zone. Instead Grealish is lingering in the U-21 side.
Grealish has to learn his lesson somehow, but I don’t think his demotion is doing anyone any favours. Villa need to focus on turning their season around first before worrying about their player’s off-field behaviour.
Featured image: ESPN