It’s what every fan dreams of. A team led by a player who has risen through the ranks and not only understands, but loves the club and would do anything to make sure they are successful. That is the current situation at Aston Villa as the club are being lead on a crusade to the Premier League by none other than the supremely talented Jack Grealish.
Make no mistake about it, Grealish is the most talented footballer in the Championship and should be playing in the Premier League next season. However, it will not be easy for him to leave his boyhood club, as he explained in an interview with the Sun recently: “I dreamed of playing for Villa. I was the kid at the side of the pitch watching everyone warm up. I was the kid who was waiting outside the ground for autographs.
“Captaining Aston Villa now means everything. Sometimes I honestly just pinch myself. I can’t put into words what it would mean to win the play-offs.”
Now, he is just 90 minutes away from achieving his burning ambition and leading Aston Villa back to the Premier League. Of course, last season’s play-off final defeat will still be haunting several of these Villa players and they will be hoping to correct things this time around as they take on Derby at Wembley. As captain, Grealish will be hoping to walk up those famous Wembley steps as a winner this time around.
As a player and a person, Grealish has grown this season. The harrowing incident in the Second City derby back in March which saw a spectator run onto the field and punch him on the back of the head, proved how much the 23-year-old has matured on and off the field.
It is just three years since a young Grealish was criticised for his poor attitude and party-lifestyle as Villa finished bottom of the Premier League. In the Championship he has become a man and Dean Smith is now getting the very best out of him. As captain he is now Villa’s central figure in midfield, their go-to man when they need a goal or assist.
His reputation for diving simply isn’t true. He is just too good for opposition defenders to get near him without fouling him.
At Wembley he will be required to step up once more and he will be trying to get the better of a manager who he admired hugely as a youngster. In fact, when Grealish was first included into Villa’s match day squad against Chelsea, he managed to get Frank Lampard’s shirt after the game, despite not making it onto the pitch.
The youngster then quizzed the midfielder, and little did Lampard know that seven years later he would be doing everything in his power to stop the young man. Grealish is ready for the Premier League and, if we are honest, ready for England. Villa would be the perfect club for him to continue his development but he cannot be held back by them any longer if they are still a Championship club come Monday afternoon.
This final is bigger than ever for Villa and their star man.