Grealish Clamour Shows England’s Media Problem In Football

Posted: April 22, 2015 in Football, Media
Tags: , , , , ,


It’s a story that seems as long and repetitive as time itself: Young player makes an impact, English media fights among each other to see who can create the most hyperbole about him.

Often it seems irrelevant as to his nationality – a youngster from abroad who excels immediately in the Premier League is greeted with a chorus of media complaining as to why the godfather of football cannot produce talent as exceptional as the young protege from sunny Spain/Germany/South America.

However, when the new kid on the block holds British roots, the reaction from those in the fourth estate’s sporting alumni becomes all the more ridiculous, with predictions of greatness cast upon them from the word go, one or two promising performances seemingly being enough to judge the way a player’s career is set to turn.

As England’s wait for major international honours grows longer and longer with every passing year, it has seen the media jump on any signs of potential from the up-and-coming in the country, clutching at the hope that they will turn into the next Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson or Paul Gascoigne.

We have already seen this happen once this season with Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, with the promising form of the striker leading him to being dubbed the ‘saviour’ of English football.

Hary Kane

Harry Kane is another to have felt the pressure of media expectation

Any person with a cooler head and no requirement to sell papers will tell you that they are already awaiting next season to see as to whether Kane can follow up his feats for this campaign or whether he will turn out to be another one-season wonder, but given the Spurs striker had the audacity to go a couple of games without a goal, the media men and women have already started sourcing their next silver lining.

Tim Sherwood’s new look Aston Villa have caught the eye for the fact that they are not the dullest team to have ever played football anymore, and given the media-savvy manager’s penchant for giving younger players an opportunity, Jack Grealish has been granted a chance to impress.

Grealish did well in his first Premier League start as Villa drew 3-3 with QPR and again caught the eye as Sherwood secured victory on his return to White Hart Lane, but it is his performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final that has got the media drooling.

Grealish was very impressive as Villa defied the odds to make it through to the final, with the attacking midfielder heavily involved in both goals as the Midlands outfit triumphed over Brendan Rodgers’ side, indicating at a bright future.

However, the reaction has been excessive once again, with even the usually level-headed Daily Telegraph’s sport page (the BBC did likewise) led with the headline ‘Tug of War Over Grealish’, with there apparently set to be a major tussle between both England and Republic of Ireland for his services on the international scene.

And we are talking senior football here. Not for an under-21 call-up, with Grealish already representing the Irish at that level, as he has done for every age group, but with Grealish somehow warranting a place among established senior players.

Not let’s get one thing straight here: Grealish only made his first start for Aston Villa in January as he lined up in the third round victory over Blackpool and failed to start a single Premier League game until he was selected against QPR on April 7th. Or 2 weeks ago, at the time of writing.

QPR have been largely easy to impress against as an attacking player this season and Spurs were already in holiday mode by the time Villa beat them, so these were ideal opponents for a youngster to be thrown in and be able to make an impact, leaving just Liverpool as a performance to really purr about.

So one impressive performance on a big stage and there is already a ‘tug-of-war’ to ensure that England secure the services of Grealish for the future, again completely overlooking how he might develop over the next few years (and completely ignoring the performance of Fabian Delph, who was fantastic and already in the England squad).

Grealish Ireland

Grealish has represented Republic of Ireland at youth level

One can perhaps understand as to why Republic of Ireland want to assure themselves of his services, despite having nurtured him through the international system thus far: Grealish is by all accounts English. Aston Villa is his hometown club having been born in the Birmingham area.

Bur Ireland have repeatedly been forced to think outside of the box when recruiting players as their pool to choose from is quite slim, often seeking out parents or grandparents of players ignored in the England set-up. Now having been responsible for his international progress so far and having sounded him out about a senior call-up before, it seems only right that they would ask the question.

However, for England to suddenly be looking to convert him to play for them after not doing enough to get him to play for the youth levels of the country of his birth, based on a handful of decent performances seems excessive. There has been minor interest before, but not enough done to bring him into the England set-up.

That the media would start baying for him to be included in the next available squad just to prevent the possibility of him representing the Irish shows absolutely no forward thinking whatsoever.

Thrusting a young player into the senior squad this early can have detrimental effects to his progress and potentially his attitude. If he believes that he has achieved all he needs already and stops working on his game, then he will never develop into the next big thing and will join the ranks of average players with international caps.

Also there is the case of the player himself. If he doesn’t progress as some are expecting, or injury strikes and he is unable to replicate his early form, he will forever be saddled with an international career that merely equates to a ten minute substitute appearance, with the odds being that he might still be able to play regularly in the smaller talent pool that the Irish select from.

While it may be prudent on England’s behalf to perhaps to pull him aside and tell the player they are monitoring his progress and that maintaining his level of performance could result in a call-up sometime in the future; but a call-up and a cameo appearance just to stop him representing another nation is petty at best and detrimental to the player’s career at worst.

For the sake of both England and Ireland, it would be wise to just let the player be for a while. He has literally only just broken into the Aston Villa side and will firstly need to focus on keeping his place there before any promotions occur.

England has only recently seen how promoting a player too quickly can have a negative impact, with Ross Barkley having endured a difficult second season for Everton, frequently losing his place in Roberto Martinez’ side and looking less and less the heir to Gascoigne with every passing match.

Keep an eye on him and speak to the player by all means. But the media hysteria that surrounds a player merely stringing a couple of good performances together benefits nobody and needs to be dialled back if English football is ever truly to progress. Grealish is just 19 and at the very beginning of his Premier League career.

Leave him alone to enjoy that and develop first before getting into any international debates.


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