Jack Grealish has come a long way in three years. He’s gone from an ill-disciplined individual to someone who now shoulders the bulk of the responsibility at Aston Villa.
But during the 2015/16 season it may have looked as though the midfielder would never realise his potential.
Grealish burst onto the scene a year prior and was one of the stand out men in Villa’s FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool, claiming an assist. It looked as though he was ready to take the Premier League by storm, but instead, his following campaign was marred with disappointment.
To sum things up, the now 23-year-old would lose every single one of the 16 matches he featured in, as Villa were relegated on a measly 18 points. But what was it that made him so frustrating?
As expected, Grealish started the season brightly under the stewardship of Tim Sherwood. The pair clearly had a good understanding but considering he wasn’t a regular every week, he struggled to nail down a consistent position.
In the earlier months of the campaign, he was utilised out on the left and also behind the striker. His involvement from wide areas was promising but it was centrally, a position he arguably didn’t get enough game time in during that season, where he stood out the most.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that he’s now become a central midfielder. Grealish still had the ability to burst beyond his man back then and his dribbling ability became synonymous of his play.
But his season never took off. When Sherwood left the club in October, it seemed as though Grealish’s first team chances went with him.
Under Remi Garde he was never able to establish himself and a falling out with the Frenchman in November 2015 won’t have helped his case. After going clubbing following a defeat against Everton, he was banned and made to train with the U21 team.
From that moment it was a struggle for the youngster and his final months of the season fizzled out, rather like Villa’s campaign. Eric Black’s appointment as caretaker in March 2016 saw him fail to make a single start.
Entrusted largely as an attacking midfielder from the bench, his lack of game time coincided with the club’s horrendous 13 match winless run.
However, with Villa now on the verge of achieving promotion back to the Premier League, Grealish is a different animal and has never looked more ready to make a return to the top-flight.