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Jack Grealish Talks Family, Villa And The Love Of An Away Day

Jack Grealish is out there on his own. A creative talisman who is dedicated and committed to his club, his love for Aston Villa is a rare kind of fandom usually reserved for those in the stands and not so much those in the middle of the park. Playing his way to the top and becoming a captain, we discuss his past, future and the legacy he is creating along with the importance of his family as he gives us a rare insight into what makes him, him.

When you type Jack Grealish into google, the first word that comes up after your name is ‘hair’. Tell us when and why you first started having this haircut or when you started expressing yourself through your hair…

It started when I was about seventeen, I don’t know what made me do it to be honest. I needed a change up from what I had before and ever since, I’ve kept it this way and I think it’s become a bit of a trademark around Birmingham, especially with the Villa fans.

Did you get many comments on it in the early days?

Not really back then. Obviously I wasn’t as well known back then. I was a young kid then and people just kind of expected that sort of thing. Obviously now I get a lot more stick for it and a lot of comments.

What about coaches, did you have anyone back then telling you to “get your hair cut”?

[laughs] Coaches were fine with me to be honest. You probably expect some of the more stern coaches to say something but they were all fine. I got on well with a lot of them.

Over the years there’s been all kinds of headlines. What’s it like on a human level when your profile grows and you get more of a taste of fame? Is it surreal that there’s so many eyes on what you’re doing?

Not not really, obviously I’ve been around it now quite a while and I know what it’s all about. I wouldn’t say I find it surreal because it’s just part of the game. As a player, you know that you’re going to be in the limelight and I don’t mind it.

Can you remember the first time you did feel famous and what that was like?

I think it was just one time when I was walking through Solihull town centre with my mum. I think it was after the FA Cup Semi-Final versus Liverpool. Since then I’ve started to get noticed a lot more. I have people coming up to me asking for photos and stuff regularly. Only Villa fans though, not really Blues fans.

Like any human being, you must like to know people respect what you’re doing. That fame also shows that you must be doing something good if people are noticing you. How does that feel?

Yeah of course, like you say, to be getting noticed, you must be doing something well. I think that I am at the moment and long may that continue.

When you were a kid, did you dream of those moments where you feel you’re on the right path? Things like being on Match of The Day and that kind of stuff?

I didn’t really dream of being famous or anything like that. I just dreamed of being a professional football player and to play for Aston Villa. I’ve been lucky enough to make that come true. It’s been down to myself, down to my hard work and I’m here now as the Aston Villa captain so I’m enjoying every minute of that and taking it all in.

What about the years before you were a player… as a fan, how would you describe those times? Can you paint that picture?

On a personal level, when I think about my career, it’s an unbelievable story for me really. I had a season ticket since I was four and went with my dad and brother. I then started playing football at Sunday League when I was five or six and within a few games, I got asked to go on a trial at Aston Villa. I had a few clubs around the Midlands area that asked me to go on trial and stuff but there was only one place that I wanted to go and that was Villa. Even growing up while part of the academy I still went to watch Villa every single week and I always knew that I always wanted to play for Villa’s first team. Luckily I have done that now. I was 18 when I made my debut and now I’m the captain and we’re in the Premier League. It’s good, I like it.

Can see you smile as you say those words. Those words coming out of your mouth clearly feel good don’t they?

Yeah definitely because when I was growing up, I never really saw myself as that big captain role. I didn’t aspire to be a captain. I was more of a flair player who did un-captain-like-stuff and I recognise that. Two or three years ago I would be the last one into the training ground and onto the training pitch but I’ve changed a lot over the last two years. I’ve taken on those leadership roles within the team and the manager trusts me. I think because I’m an Aston Villa fan and someone who has been there a long time, he’s seen leadership qualities in me and I think that’s why he gave me the captain’s armband.

When talking about fame and that kind of thing – the kind of overnight nature it can be in football when you burst onto the scene… Do you think you were ready for it?

Yeah it’s one of those things that’s hard not to notice the effect it has on your life. Everywhere you go you get noticed, especially playing for such a big club in a big city. It’s just part of the game though especially when you’re playing in the Premier League week-in, week-out. You’re going to get noticed, it’s just part of it and you have to constantly learn along the way and learn from those mistakes too.

Successful people always surround themselves with good people. How important is that tight group around you, especially as that spotlight grows?

Yeah they’re all hugely important for me. The higher you go, the more important that group is. When I was younger I probably didn’t have all the right people around me friends-wise. Now I have a tight set of friends, a brilliant family who have supported me since I was a kid, my dad who travels everywhere to watch me – both home and away and my mum who comes to most games too. All my brothers and sisters are so supportive. It’s massive you know, I can’t emphasise that enough – you need that and people like that. Especially as a footballer with the limelight it brings.

Those last two years. Hard lessons along the way. How quickly would you say you’ve had to grow up?

Very quickly. When I was younger, I was in the papers for the wrong reasons and I’ll admit that I probably did things that I shouldn’t have. I wouldn’t change one thing about that though – all these experiences have made me the man I am today. You have to learn from those mistakes. That is one thing I probably needed to happen to me – I needed to grow up and mature and I feel like I’ve done that now and that’s why I’m sitting here now as a Premier League captain.


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