Jack Grealish shines for England thanks to Gaelic football and practice ground naps!

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When the lights are out at Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground and most of the players have returned home, the captain doesn’t even think about timing.

Jack Grealish’s performance for England against Belgium proved what Villa coaches, players and fans have known for some time – he is a remarkable footballer who has always had the talent and temperament to shine on the international stage, if only we gave it a chance.

What fewer people recognize is the fierce dedication Grealish has shown to reach this level. construction work on Villa’s training ground means players can no longer sleep there, but when they could, Grealish would finish his lunchtime session, grab a bite to eat and a few hours of kip and was heading to the gym with close friend Oli Stevenson, Villa’s strength and conditioning trainer, often staying until 7pm.

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish shines this season with extra work on the training ground

During the lockdown, Grealish installed fitness equipment at his home in Barnt Green, a village 10 miles south of Birmingham, where neighbors often see him hammering the treadmill. He relies on resistance bands to increase strength and power.

As the most fouled player in the Premier League this season, Grealish is often beaten and bruised after games and wears a compression suit to freeze his sore muscles and joints. Stevenson played a key role in Grealish’s rise.

The pair were together in the Youth Villa prior to Stevenson’s release in 2013, with illness ending his chances of winning a professional contract. but after a sports science degree from Loughborough University, Stevenson returned to Villa and was soon promoted to work with the first team.

“He worked really hard in the gym,” Villa boss Dean Smith said. “His former youth teammate is our strength and conditioning coach and he spends hours in the gym with him. “He has an incredible balance. it comes from hard work. People try to run him down, but he can run past them anyway.

Grealish is enjoying his best campaign and was the most fouled Premier League player

Grealish is enjoying his best campaign and was the most fouled Premier League player

Villa Boss Dean Smith praised his captain's work ethic and dedication to improving his game

Villa Boss Dean Smith praised his captain’s work ethic and dedication to improving his game

Yet all the gym work in the world can only drive a player so far. Luckily for Grealish, he always had an abundant natural ability, which was perfected by playing Gaelic football for the John Mitchels club in Solihull, West Midlands, where he grew up. “I loved playing Gaelic football when I was younger and I think it played a big role in my development as a footballer,” said Grealish.

His coaches at the time watched Belgium’s game with immense pride, tinged with disappointment at having chosen England over Ireland, the country of his grandparents. The qualities that embarrassed the Belgians were apparent when Grealish was playing Gaelic football at age 12.

“Jack was superb in solo (the equivalent of dribbling),” said JP Walsh, president of John Mitchels. “People still talk about a goal he scored when he ran down the pitch. He was very brave, very strong on the ball, not afraid to take responsibility.

Grealish was England's star player against Belgium and his skills come from Gaelic football

Grealish was England’s star player against Belgium and his skills come from Gaelic football

Some players were said to have been nervous about playing their first competitive international against the world’s No.1 ranked team, but those close to Grealish say he just couldn’t wait to come out. After studying Kevin De Bruyne’s clips in the hours leading up to the game, the 25-year-old was desperate to test himself against the Manchester City midfielder. “It was the best of three performances he had and against top opponents,” noted England coach Gareth Southgate.

At times last season Grealish felt the burden of being Villa’s main man, but with better players arriving last summer and others – like John Mcginn – in top form, he carried his game. to another level.

After his display in Leuven, Grealish cited De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho as his favorites, but Francesco Totti is another player he should aspire to emulate. Like the big rom, who played until the age of 40, Grealish carries the hopes of half a big city. Like Grealish, Totti didn’t trust him at the international level.

Yet, at 23, he was the man of the match in the Euro 2000 final and helped Italy win the World Cup six years later. Totti’s work in this final 20 years ago was in vain as Italy was beaten by France. Grealish is so confident he’ll believe he can match Totti next summer.

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