Written By Andy Jones (@TheRambling Ham)
Gareth Southgate fielded another youthful side against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night as England cruised to a 3-0 victory at Wembley.
From a starting XI sharing just 87 caps between them – of which Harry Maguire had 28, Jack Grealish claimed the Man of the Match award with an impressive performance, grabbing an assist for his troubles.
Goals from captain Maguire, Jadon Sancho and a Dominic Calvert-Lewin penalty gave the hosts a comfortable win on a night where Grealish took all the plaudits.
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) November 12, 2020
England’s new Jack in the box?
A product of Aston Villa’s academy, Grealish has been in scintillating form this season, contributing to half of all of Villa’s goals in the Premier League.
Despite representing Ireland at youth level, Grealish opted to play for England and didn’t look one bit phased as he faced off against his grandparents’ home nation.
Southgate finally gave the Villa captain his chance to shine in a free role off the left flank – his preferred position, and he took it emphatically.
A delightful pass from the Villa forward released Sancho to drive home England’s second goal of the night. England’s exciting pair had spent the most part of the game switching wings to torment the Irish fullbacks as they teased at what could be the beginning or a lethal partnership.
The only thing lacking from Grealish’s performance was a goal, and when Southgate replaced him around the hour mark it felt slightly premature.
But let’s remember, this was a friendly in which England were in complete control, and tougher opposition lay just around the corner.
Grealish has to start vs Belgium
Belgium await England in their next match as the Nations League carnival swings back into town, and Grealish will be feeling quietly confident that he may have forced his way into the starting line-up come Sunday evening.
Injuries to Danny Ings, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford may have made the choice slightly easier for Southgate, but Villa’s number 10 has made a strong case for his inclusion regardless of the available personal.
Southgate may well have decided to rest his mercurial talent ahead of this weekend’s crucial game, with his side coming up against the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
His withdrawal was perhaps a sign that the Villa player may well feature from the start in Leuven, with Southgate finally starting to listen to the nations cries to start the 25-year-old.
Grealish has contributed to 10 Premier League goals this campaign, netting four goals and assisting another six. Such a record surely justifies his regular inclusion, especially when the absence of regular wide forwards Rashford and Sterling has left a void in attack.
The England Boss clearly sees the Villa player as a forward, playing across the front line rather than in the more workmanlike midfield which is often employed by Southgate, so now would be the perfect time to start Grealish in his first competitive match.
Jack Grealish vs Ireland:
⏱️ 61 minutes
⚽️ 50 touches
❌ 2 fouls won
🅰️ 1 assist
📈 89.7% pass success (39 passes) pic.twitter.com/ATKKHO0X5d
— bwin (@bwin) November 12, 2020
There has been a clamour amongst fans and pundits to use the mercurial talent more when it comes to England, the 25-year-old was unlucky to miss out on several squads last year as he almost single handedly kept the Villain’s in the top flight.
This is a huge chance should it be bestowed on the lad from Birmingham, his form for Villa now needs to be consistently emulated in an England shirt if he has any hopes of claiming a spot on the proverbial plane to next summer’s Euro’s.