OLIVER HOLT: England must embrace Jack Grealish’s talent for the European Championship

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It’s time to put a stop to the idea that Jack Grealish should be sweating for his place in the England squad for this summer’s European Championship. If there were a plane to board, Grealish would have to be one of the first players to climb the stairs. The question is not whether he should be in the squad, but whether he should be on the squad for England’s opening game against Croatia.

More importantly, there is no evidence that Gareth Southgate is considering letting him out of his party when it is announced sometime towards the end of next month. It was always likely, after three games against easier opponents in the past two weeks, that the number of others would increase while Grealish was injured, but that doesn’t mean Southgate has forgotten how important he can be.

Southgate has a wealth of attacking talent at its disposal, but even in that context, it’s easy to argue that Grealish should be one of the first names on the manager’s team sheet for that match against the Croats at Wembley on June 13. recent absences have not changed the fact that he is the player who creatively offers England something different. Just like Paul Gascoigne did at the 1990 World Cup.

Jack Grealish is arguably England's most exciting player - and thrives on the big stage

Jack Grealish is arguably England’s most exciting player – and thrives on the big stage

See, this isn’t about Grealish versus Mason Mount. I don’t have time for Mount opponents. I understand why Southgate started him in all three World Cup qualifiers for the past two weeks and I hope he will also start in England’s first match of the European Championship against Croatia.

This is also not about Grealish versus Bukayo Saka. Saka is a player of balance and subtlety and skill who sees passes that others cannot see and whose movement is agile and intelligent. He is a great talent. It’s not about Grealish versus Jadon Sancho either. Sancho and Saka are more reasons to be optimistic about England’s direction of travel.

This isn’t actually about Grealish versus anyone. His talent speaks for itself. There is no need to belittle someone else to justify his inclusion. If he recovers from the shin injury that left him out of the calculation for the recent trio of internationals and picks up where he left off for Aston Villa against Fulham, he should push for a first-team spot against Croatia.

The Aston Villa skipper hopes to leave his injury problems behind for the euro

The Aston Villa skipper hopes to leave his injury problems behind for the euro

The Aston Villa skipper hopes to leave his injury problems behind for the euro

Opinions are fickle, but some seem to have very quickly forgotten the rave reviews Grealish received after England’s defeat in the Nations League against Belgium last November. Yes, England lost, but the consensus was that Grealish was Southgate’s most accomplished player, completely at home against one of the best teams in the world. Everyone agreed that no one at an international level had to doubt him again.

He was brilliant at that game. There were glaring moments of genius, like his on-the-run movie about Thomas Meunier’s head, but his performance was about much more than tricks. He directed the show for England. He was the driving force of the team. He had the confidence and technical ability to run for the Belgian defense. He had the courage to excel.

Roy Keane spoke of that courage after the game. He spoke of Grealish’s bravery under pressure, his ability to influence play even when pressured by the opposition. “We keep talking about England trying to win something and move to the next level,” Keane said. “You definitely feel like they need a player like Jack to get to that level.”

English managers have a history of suspicious of players like Grealish when it comes to the crunch and even Gascoigne, the greatest English player of the past 50 years, only pushed through for a place on Sir Bobby Robson’s World Cup squad 1990. Six weeks in advance with a fine performance against Czechoslovakia.

Grealish isn't Paul Gascoigne, but he's the closest he can get to England

Grealish isn't Paul Gascoigne, but he's the closest he can get to England

Grealish isn’t Paul Gascoigne, but he’s the closest he can get to England

Grealish isn’t Gascoigne, but he’s the closest he can get to him and he’s the type of player who thrives on the big stage. Gascoigne squeezed into that England team in 1990 and led England to the semi-finals. Imagine if Sir Bobby had listened to those urging him to make a safer choice instead.

There is no reason to believe that Grealish with the euro could not have a similar impact on England. There is a lot of offensive talent at Southgate’s disposal. Grealish would complete it. We keep hearing the suggestion that Southgate does not trust Grealish defensively, but this is also a squad with excellent talents like Declan Rice. If Grealish needs a small permit to roam, Rice can give him the platform to do it.

England was impressive in spells against Poland, but especially in the second half they cried out for Grealish’s inspiration. ‘Grealish brings that other option’, said former England star Ashley Cole after that game in Belgium, ‘that different way of playing. It’s not about the system. ‘

He is right. Grealish could play a number of different roles on an England team. Against Belgium he played next to Mount just behind Harry Kane. He could play on one side of the front three or as part of a three-man midfield. He is a smart, flexible player. He can use both feet.

Grealish should push for a starting place alongside Gareth Southgate on the euro

Grealish should push for a starting place alongside Gareth Southgate on the euro

Grealish should push for a starting place alongside Gareth Southgate on the euro

I don’t envy Southgate’s job of choosing this squad. Of course it is good that he has choices and he will have to leave out some very good players. It’s hard to imagine Grealish going to be one of them.

I would like Southgate to choose Trent Alexander-Arnold against Croatia too, and even if that seems like an increasingly hopeless hope, this remains a group of players who have a chance to win a major tournament for the first time since 1966. contenders. And if Grealish is on the team, they will be stronger contenders.

I would like to have a team that positions itself like this for the first game: Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell; Mount, Rice, Foden; Sterling, Kane, Grealish. We have a team from England brimming with talent that can deter most defenders. Grealish is one of them. So let’s not turn away from him. Let’s hug him.

CAN AGUERO ENJOY THE PERFECT END IN CITY?

My all-time favorite Manchester City player is Peter Barnes. That doesn’t mean he is the best City player, just that he was the player who gave me the most pleasure. I would put David Silva next and Georgi Kinkladze last of my top three.

Sergio Agüero, who announced last week that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, has a strong claim to the best City player to wear the shirt. He was a great striker for the club and one of the deadliest goalscorers the Premier League has ever seen.

I still think Colin Bell is the club’s best player, but there is no right answer in that debate. What is undeniable is Aguero’s place in City’s history. He is like no other a symbol of City’s transformation from a team that had built a reputation for underperformance and setbacks to become the most successful English club of the past decade.

The way he and the club handled his impending departure is class. The only thing missing from his resume is the Champions League. What a fitting conclusion it would be for Aguero’s time in Manchester if he won Europe’s biggest club prize on May 29 in Istanbul.

Sergio Agüero will be desperate to end his illustrious Man City career with European glory

Sergio Agüero will be desperate to end his illustrious Man City career with European glory

Sergio Agüero will be desperate to end his illustrious Man City career with European glory