Finding a replacement for the dazzling Paul Gascoigne has been one of the toughest tasks for the English national team.
There have been so many youngsters who showed potential, so many false dawns, from your Ross Barkleys to your Dele Allis.
Even Wayne Rooney, a man who was an absolute superstar for Manchester United and became England’s all-time top goalscorer, struggled to consistently produce at major tournaments. Finding ‘the next Gazza’ has proved to be nearly impossible over the last two decades.
And now a new challenger has arrived on the scene, ready to rescue the Three Lions from the jaws of mediocrity and carry them to glory. That challenger is none other than Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish.
His call-up to the England squad has been a long time coming. For many months, Gareth Southgate bizarrely neglected the Villa playmaker, and only gave him the chance when he had almost no choice. The nation was begging for him to play. And, once he got his opportunity, he impressed.
"The way he runs with the ball – I've seen no English player do that since Gascoigne."
Gabriel Agbonlahor discusses Jack Grealish's performances for England and how he has been helped by a positional change…🦁 pic.twitter.com/1rfpFnD9ap
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 17, 2020
Despite ending up on the losing side in Belgium, Grealish was singled out for praise by many fans and pundits. He showed flair, bravery, invention – the whole lot. All that was missing was a goal or an assist. Many now believe that the 25-year-old could be the man to take England to the next level.
However, it’s a dangerous game to start pinning your hopes all on one player, and it may be unwise to pile this pressure on Grealish.
Firstly, there’s no guarantee that he will even be a starter. After all, he only earned his first cap in September. Not to mention, competition for the wing spots is very high.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford will all be battling it out for first-team places. And, with Southgate seemingly insistent on playing a 3-4-3 formation, he’ll likely have to outperform two of the aforementioned three to secure himself a starting berth.
Furthermore, obscene amounts of media hype very rarely ends up well. It can give people unrealistically high expectations of a certain player, leading to mass disappointment when that player doesn’t reach those standards.
It wasn’t long ago that John Stones was being touted as the next John Terry. Fast forward a few seasons and his time in an England shirt appears to be over.
Other times, a player could start to believe their own hype, and develop an attitude problem as a result. Grealish himself has already been involved in a handful of controversies. He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.
Now, of course, being controversial doesn’t always have to be a hindrance – Gascoigne himself was renowned for it. However, at this stage of his career, it’s surely best to keep him out of trouble, keep his feet on the ground, and keep him focused on his football.
Grealish is a very good player. He offers something that no one else in the England squad can, and if he’s properly utilised, he could be a superstar on the international stage. Just don’t pin all your hopes on him, because it may just break him.