Jack Grealish is relishing his role as England’s poster boy – even if he feels his critics are determined to tear him down.
The £100million signing capped off his debut season with Manchester City by winning his first Premier League title after a bruising battle with Liverpool. Grealish describes the feat as a “dream come true” despite admitting he could have contributed more to Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad.
Now the 26-year-old turns his attention to England’s Nations League clashes with Hungary, Germany and Italy, with the midfielder looking to kick on after emerging as a leading figure in Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad. And Grealish insists he enjoys being in the spotlight and understands the pressure comes with being Britain’s most-expensive footballer.
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“It’s fine (being England’s poster boy). It is what it is. If that’s what people think, that’s fine. I think it’s a good thing to have – and you just have to embrace it,” he told Mirror Football . “I try not to let anything get to my head. It’s all about enjoying it, as long as I’m enjoying myself, playing football and enjoying life off the pitch even; then I will perform well. Fingers crossed I can do that over the few weeks and few games.”
Grealish joined up with his England teammates having followed up his landmark campaign with an equally-memorable post-season party. The charismatic former Aston Villa captain celebrated in style with his City teammates before jetting off to Ibiza – a holiday which inevitably attracted criticism.
But Grealish will refuse to change his ways, adding: “I’m doing what I have loved doing my whole life. I’m the most expensive British player but I’m also the Jack from Solihull who my friends and family know. I’ll never let that leave me, no matter what anyone says.
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“I know people were saying last week, ‘Oh, he’s doing too much’. But what? I’ve just won the Premier League. It’s a dream come true. Why can’t I go on holiday?
“There’s people that are at England with me now who went to Vegas, Ibiza, Marbella, all these places. No-one said a word, but because it was me, people were saying things. I love coming here. I love training, playing with the lads. It’s such a good bunch. We always look forward to playing with each other.
“That’s one thing that Gareth has done, he’s made this a team. Somewhere where you enjoy coming to play. I’ve heard people say in the past that they didn’t enjoy coming to play for England, like 10-15 years ago.
“But credit to the manager he’s made it a place where everyone wants to come. Southgate has done a brilliant job here. It’s not how it used to be. We are all friends.
“We know when we come here we have a job to do together even if we might be rivals on a Saturday, we know we have a job to do here. We are going to try do that.”
Grealish was speaking as part of McDonalds’ Fun Football programme, which will deliver over 10.5 million hours of Fun Football over the course of the next four years making it the largest grassroots participation programme in the UK. The programme will be delivered in collaboration with the Irish FA, Scottish FA, The Football Association of Wales and a network of national coaching providers.
McDonald’s will continue to improve the accessibility of the Fun Football programme through training and upskilling of coaches. Ensuring over 800 Fun Football coaches have disability coaching badges and partnering with Kick It Out to make sure every Fun Football coach takes part in anti-discrimination training.
Alongside upskilling Fun Football providers, the programme will recruit over 100 women’s football coaches to support with increasing girl’s participation.
McDonald’s Fun Football is offering one million kids access to FREE football over the next four years as part of the largest grassroots football programme in the UK. Start your kids football journey by visiting McDonalds.co.uk/Football