The in-form Aston Villa midfielder is determined to build on a bright start to his international career
Jack Grealish has welcomed comparisons between himself and England legend Paul Gascoigne, while outlining his ambition to cement a place in Gareth Southgate’s team.
Grealish made his long-awaited England debut when coming on as a substitute during a 0-0 draw against Denmark in the UEFA Nations League last month, before receiving a second successive call-up for the latest round of international fixtures.
The Aston Villa midfielder was handed his first senior start for the Three Lions as Wales arrived at Wembley for a friendly clash on Thursday night, and he produced a stellar display to help Southgate’s side secure a comfortable 3-0 victory.
The 25-year-old set up Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s opener and generally dictated the pace of the game with his superb passing range and movement, before being replaced by Leicester’s Harvey Barnes in the 76th minute.
Ex-England boss Steve McClaren has been among those to point out similarities between Grealish and Gascoigne, who became a cult figure for England at the height of his career in the 90s.
The in-form playmaker says being mentioned in the same breath as the former Everton and Tottenham star is a huge feather in his cap, and he wants to entertain supporters in the same vein with his unique style of play.
“I would love to be like Gazza,” Grealish told The Guardian. “He played with such joy and that is what I want to do. One of the biggest compliments for people to say to you is that you make them happy watching football.”
The Villa talisman added on his determination to become a key part of Southgate’s plans going forward: “Everyone knows one of my long-term goals was to get into the England squad and play for England. Now that I am here, I want to cement my place. I was absolutely desperate to come here.
“There is so much talent in the wing positions and it will be difficult to get into those positions. I have full respect for those guys and the numbers they have got.
“But I also have respect for how much ability I have got. In the last two or three years, I have played half my games on the wing and half my games as a No.8 or No.10.
“I fully believe that I can do both going forward. I think the manager knows that now.”
Grealish went on to insist that he can continue delivering the goods on a consistent basis, while revealing that he hopes to follow the example set by Tottenham striker Harry Kane in terms of his professionalism and commitment on and off the pitch.
“I’m capable of these types of performances,” he said ahead of England’s Nations League doubleheader against Belgium and Denmark. “The aim is to do it every weekend like some of the players in this squad – Harry Kane, Raheem [Sterling], Marcus [Rashford]. It is the standard these guys set.
“You only have to look at Harry Kane. He is first on the training pitch, he is first in the meetings. He is last off the training pitch, he is practising his finishing, free-kicks – every single day.
“No wonder he is one of the best strikers in the world. It makes you want to go back to Villa and set those standards.”