What made Paul Mitchell attack Jack Grealish? As random and as foolish as it appeared, there has to be something behind his motive, whether it was a conscious or unconscious thought process. Not all Birmingham fans are idiots. Just as all Villa fans are not saints. Every club in England has its fair share of idiots. It defies logic. Or does it?

Somewhere in the near history of Aston Villa, Grealish became the anointed one—the club’s talisman—providing that magical ingredient that exists in few players. That day was at Wembley when he dismantled Liverpool in the semifinals. Not only did he play remarkably well, he also lifted the play of this teammates. Villa put Liverpool on the back foot, and we can point to Jack for this win. As excited as we are over his skill and ability to alter or control a game, so are the fans of other teams, only at a 180-degree view.

He has become the focus of everyone. Both for and against. So the attack was committed to lift the Birmingham side whether Mitchell knew it or not, to prove that Grealish is human after all and not to be in awe of. But as we all saw, it backfired. The sucker punch did nothing for the Blues, but it did pull Villa together even more as a team than it was five minutes previous. That fifteen-second attack will solidify Villa more than weeks of bonding in the dressing room or on the practice pitch.

Would that have happened if it had been any other Villa player on the pitch? Perhaps, but wit it being Grealish, it was maximum benefit.

There is a problem coming up in May. Grealish is the glue that propels Villa and we all know that Grealish wants to be in the Premier League. What to do? If promotion is the goal this year and promotion is won, then the possibility of Grealish leaving is lessened, but not put to bed. Stay down in the Championship for another year, and I really think we can kiss him goodbye.

Being promoted only to fill the financial accounts by falling back down for parachute payments would be disingenuous and Jack would be gone in the January window. There are other players under contract to Villa, as well as loan players, that Villa covet. Keeping them becomes essential as well. Going up relieves Financial Fair Play (haha, what a concept, but I digress) and provides more money to be spent. Stay down and the few building blocks that are in place will be gone as will the money for future players.

It becomes quite clear: Villa need to win the majority of their remaining games to keep any semblance of a team, to keep Grealish, and also the better players in claret and blue. Going up is the only goal for the next two months. And then stay up. Fail, and the crows will be back to roost, picking at the bones. Jack Grealish is the prize, almost as important to Aston Villa as being a Premier League team.

Paul Mitchell has proven that to us. All the hackers on the opposition teams have proven that to us. The improvement in play with him in the side has proven that to us.

Every Villa fan has to stand behind the team and take in the big picture. It can be done.

Comments 15

  1. Thanks for the post Ian
    So much been going on it’s hard to get my head round it.
    Better than being stuck.
    I am quietly confident, what of exactly I’m not sure.

  2. Thanks for the comments guys.
    It’s certainly looking brighter for Villa right now. I’m looking forward to the game tomorrow. Hopefully the stands are full.

  3. Nice writing, Ian. I’m a little worried that the team seems to depend on Jack so much. That said, he’s playing like we always thought he could. He’s certainly no “luxury” player anymore.
    IanG. It is a tasty dish. The tart of apricots and richness of mutton seems a perfect combination.

  4. Thanks Ian, I’ve heard that the incident at St Andrews has made a fair few Blues fans realise that Jack is the real deal. Its a very surreal place we find ourselves in, we might go up with a side that can’t function without Jack and that doesn’t look great for our prospects, thats if we can even keep or want to keep the side together.

    Either way we are looking at a huge rebuild, logically I think another season to bring through the youth would be nice but also should of been implemented the minute we dropped. Theres also the step up in quality of player that Smith will have to find and work with, and the teams he will have little knowledge of playing against too, a steep learning curve for him.

    The money is always welcome, I’d like to think jack would stay next season if we stay down but would forgive him for not, if keeping him means a punt at staying up in the prem so be it, I like seeing him play and want him to play for England while at Villa.

  5. General comment on the reliance on Jack…

    I don’t know that it’s really so remarkable. I think anyone but the top 6 PL teams have one or two indispensable players. They can afford to keep hold of someone that can function like a Hazard, and they’ve got enough talent to go at it different ways when he’s not available. And even at Villa, while the whole side is dependent on Jack to make the style of play work, it’s also clear that Abraham remains crucial, as does a quality CB like Mings.

    But…None of it really functions all that well without Jack, given that the midfield is what allows the other units to focus on their responsibilities, and the truth is that the current playing staff only includes one player with his attributes. I don’t think Smith would build a side of his own that can’t function well without one key player in midfield, but this is largely what he was given to work with.

    So, you have to both find or develop more than one player who can mimic what Jack does, and you need to have a stable of players that can execute a style of play (albeit with adaptations) when you lose the lynch pin. That just isn’t what we had when Dean stepped in. Might’ve been different if Lansbury could’ve stayed heathy and been integrated earlier, for example, though he’s not the same. Likewise, an O’Hare is one you’re hoping can be brought along and make things tick over.

    The other thing Jack brings is arrogance. And his confidence spreads throughout the team. He not only makes other players better by allowing certain things to happen, he makes them better for freeing them up mentally.

  6. Mark,

    Big rebuild, either way, yes. If we go up, I think Jack will stay. No guarantee, but it’s probably enough to keep him around one more year, just the loyalty factor, and the fact that it would take a transfer request or a lot of money to pry him loose since we’ll still really need him, and Smith would be hoping to focus his recruitment attention to other areas.

    Going up, no idea if we can keep hold of Abraham, or whether he’ll cut it at the next level. Chelsea aren’t so sure at the moment. Mings? Thinking he’ll be more possible, and Hause, it’s our choice. Again, how do they look in the PL? Well, not so important against the top 6, just a matter of being good enough against the other 13. McGinn? We’ll need the engine, and again, while no one at the top will come calling, he should still be competitive. The rest?

    We’d need at least one more CB, and maybe two FBs, depending on where Hause provides the greatest value. Need to replace Hourihane, I’d think. Bjarnason ought to be good enough if he can mark Messi, but he’s getting on and not getting many looks. Wingers? All change. And we’d need at least one more striker. Kodjia is just largely done. Carroll? Haven’t seen enough. Lansbury? I doubt it. Steer? I dunno.

    So it’ll be about having depth at all positions. If Smith can keep the spine, makes it easier. And the less change the better, for cohesion. But there’s going to have to be a lot of change to be competitive at the next level.

  7. I’m really looking forward to this afternoon’s game Ian. Three points before the break making 12 out of 12 in the last 4 games. Not something I contemplated but the performances without Jack were beginning to improve of late. So his return has been the catalyst to kick on.

    Our upturn has coincided with small heath’s downturn. Double joy. Now for the play offs.

  8. It still feels a bit premature to me to be talking of promotion . . . . . if we were to win today however. . . . !

    We’d probably still need to win 6 ( maybe 5) of our last 8 games, and with the last two being Leeds and Norwich it’s still a tall order.

    As everyone’s acknowledged here, Jack is crucial to all this and we need him to stay fit. In the last three games we’ve played 3 of the seven dirtiest teams in the division (according to the fair play table) and we have yet another one this afternoon. None of us would put it past Pulis to instruct his players to ‘get Jack’ bearing in mind that a loss for them today would put us only 1 point behind them and possibly drop them out of the top 6 . . . . . the stakes are getting high now.

    It’s more important than ever that referees recognise this and offer some protection to the best player in the division.
    Otherwise, what we’ll all see is that foul play pays off and we don’t want the naughty boys to be the undoing of our messiah do we.

  9. On fouling Jack, I think his stock has risen by the way he has handled himself and by being handed the captaincy, Refs might be looking at him with a bit more respect instead of the 50/50 reaction or worse he has got so far in his career.

    Fulhams one loss and 18 wins in 23 game run to go third say its possible, along with Millwalls near miss with 2 losses in 20 last season. Notably Fulham got many 1 or 2-0 wins so its seems we are more deadly at least when on song and if we don’t lose again will better both those clubs losses in games 16-46 its all there to do.

  10. Connor missing from the match day Squad presumably injured or ill? Wheelan in so not the worst. Green stays in Thor and Carroll on the bench along with a return for Davis.

Leave a Reply