This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Jack Grealish captained his beloved Aston Villa back to the Premier League last season after three seasons in the second-tier of English football. The young midfielder was in the midst of his breakthrough years back when Villa were in the elite tier of English football, but a lot has changed since then.
The 2014/15 campaign signalled Grealish’s breakthrough.
The Villa youngster was selected sporadically and his appearances were predominantly made as a substitute prior to Tim Sherwood’s arrival, but the new manager was eager to get the playmaker involved and he was a regular in the starting XI from April until the season reached its conclusion.
The dreaded drop did come a year later, though, as Villa, who at this point had parted with several managers, dropped into the Championship. Grealish continued to play a key role and was instrumental in their run to the playoff final that they agonisingly lost to Fulham.
However, the pain didn’t last too much longer, as Dean Smith arrived and put together a wonderful end-of-season run of form that saw the side climb into the top six – with Grealish’s influence a driving force all the while – and win the multi-million pound prize of promotion at Wembley.
Grealish will be captaining a new-look squad in a gruelling and punishing Premier League campaign but the Villa star is no stranger to the demands of the top flight.
His job is not only to be the playmaker-in-chief but also to be a leader of men and his ability to influence the dressing room will naturally be a determining factor in Villa’s season.
The spotlight will be on Grealish, and that’s what makes him the one to watch for Villa.
He’s got to raise his level as both a captain and player.
He’s performed in the Championship but the question on everyone’s mind will concern his ability to emulate that type of form at the highest level?
The pressure is firmly on a young-man who’s carrying the weight of responsibility that is typically bestowed upon a player five years his senior.
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After returning to the Premier League you’d assume a newly promoted side would aim to consolidate their position in the so-called promised land.
However, with Villa’s summer spending sitting just shy of the £134m mark, much bigger things will be expected of Grealish and his teammates.
A good season for the local-born star would see him replicate his form from last season, lead Villa comfortably to safety and put himself in contention for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad – if England qualify, of course.
All eyes will be on Grealish this season both inside and outside of Villa park.
A successful season would consist of (all competitions)