When Jack Grealish enters the field with his socks down, a storm usually breaks loose in the stadium. In the stands, because the new addition to Manchester City is by far the most popular player in the English team. And on the field, because no player creates more danger on the pitch than the English man with Irish roots. Grealish topped the list by far at the last European Championship as the player who made the highest indirect contribution to his team’s goals per match (Goal Creating Actions). With whirling dribbles, for example, but also by being fouled by opponents.
Last season was no different in the Premier League. Measured per game, his contribution to Aston Villa goals last season was 0.86, exactly as much as Kevin de Bruyne. In the 2020-21 season, Grealish pushed the ball into the opponent’s penalty area 80 times, more often than fellow troublemakers Raheem Sterling (62 times) and Marcus Rashford (61 times) the other two top-3 players.
Sagging socks are a Grealish trademark. Grealish hasn’t pulled his socks up since he was 16, out of superstition, because when he stopped doing this, his career took off. With those balloon calves of his, socks are way too tight anyhow. That gives you cramps, he says himself. Grealish claims that playing without shin guards will deter defenders from tackling him wildly, although it doesn’t really show from the stats. No player was knocked down by defenders more often in the 2020-21 season than Grealish. In total, defenders needed 109 fouls to stop him, far more than the scores of tackle magnets Wilfried Zaha (88) and Adama Traorë (86).
Grealish grew up in Solihull, south east Birmingham, the home city of Aston Villa where he started at the age of six and has played for over twenty years. Apart from a short trip to League One club Notts County (3rd division level in England) he has always played at the club where he made his debut in the first team at the age of 16. That club loyalty runs in the family. His great-great-grandfather, Billy Garraty, won the FA Cup in 1905 with Aston Villa.
At 26 years old, Grealish is a late bloomer. He didn’t make his debut in the English national team until September 2020. Talent enough, but Graelish’s dedication to his profession was often up for discussion. Paul Gascoigne is his great example. Like the famous Frenchman, he wants to make the spectators happy with his game. He himself thinks that he is not yet close to the famous Frenchman in terms of football, but with his behavior off the field he is well on his way.
French coach Rémi Garde put him out of the squad in 2015 because he visited a nightclub, shortly after Aston Villa was beaten 4-0 by Everton. In December 2020, Grealish will lose his driver’s license for nine months because he is involved in various misdemeanors and an accident. He will also be fined £82,000. Six months earlier, he crashed into several cars with his Range Rover. A guard who manages to track him down later testifies that the Aston Villa attacker smelled of liquor and spoke with a double tongue. The fact that Graelish was behind the wheel with bath slippers, left and right different in color, may have had a bad influence on his driving, according to his lawyer. CCTV footage from October 2020 shows Grealish bumper-sticking to clear the way for the race to the Aston Villa training complex. According to his counsel, Graelish was late for training and afraid of setting a bad example for his teammates as captain.
Three of Graelish’s four grandparents are from Ireland. He played for the Irish youth team and even played Gaelic football until he was 14, a combination of rugby and football, where 15 players can score in a football goal with a net, but also between the rugby posts above.
With an amount of 116.5 million euros, the most expensive purchase in the Premier League this season. There was no money left for Messi after that, Pep Guardiola said at the start of the new season. Whether that choice works out well remains to be seen. In any case, it is not the least of those who admire him. After the 2-0 loss against Belgium, Kevin de Bruyne asked Grealish if he wanted to exchange his shirt with him.