Jack Grealish: I can light up the Euros like Gascoigne and Rooney

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Jack Grealish of England waves to the crowd after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between Czech Republic and England at Wembley Stadium on June 22, 2021 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES
Jack Grealish of England waves to the crowd after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between Czech Republic and England at Wembley Stadium on June 22, 2021 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES

Jack Grealish says he is ready to emulate Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney on the biggest stage if he is given the chance at the European Championship.

The Aston Villa midfielder made his first start at the tournament in the 1-0 victory over Czech Republic and wants to use the rest of the competition to showcase his talent, just as Gascoigne did 21 years ago and Rooney 7 years later.

Grealish, 25, was England’s most fouled player at Wembley on Tuesday and set up Raheem Sterling’s winner. But having not had the chance to play in the Champions League yet, Grealish has sights on keeping his place in the England team and giving Gareth Southgate’s team a creative spark to showcase what he can offer in the hope of following down the path of past England greats.

“I’ve spoken about how big these tournaments are in people’s careers,” he said. “You think back and look at Gazza at Italia 90 where he was well-known before but everyone remembers that tournament.

“You look at Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004 when he set his marker to be one of the best in the world. I’ve got a bit to follow in their footsteps but hopefully I can do that if I get more chances in the tournament.

“It’s obviously different to what I’ve been used to. I’ve never played in Europe before, I’ve never played in the Europa League or Champions League so it’s obviously different to what I’m used to. But it’s a new challenge, it’s something that I’m really enjoying, I love it. It is a matter of showcasing my talent to the world and it is what I want.”

Manchester City are interested in a deal for Grealish this summer which would be likely to break the record for a Premier League transfer. Moving to a Champions League club would be the first chance of European football after spending his career so far at Villa Park.

“I will have to wait and see with me playing in Europe. Just playing for my country is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Grealish said. “That was my aim for this season and finally I’ve done it. I just hope I can keep training well and try to get myself in the team.”

Fans chanted for Grealish’s name during the opening win over Croatia, then cheered when he was pictured on the bench against Scotland as they wanted him on the pitch. The Czech Republic win was his first start and he was taken off after 68 minutes but says he is completely recovered from his recent shin problems.

“I’ve had games before in the past where you want to try to do too much. You want to prove to people that much that you end up having a stinker,” he said. “So I’ve been there, I’ve had that many times before. I felt like I did well. I set up a goal, I created a few chances. I still feel as a team we could have kept possession a bit more and I felt like I could have helped that by maybe dropping deeper or getting on the ball a bit more. But I was happy with my performance.

“There is nothing to say I can’t perform at this level. You all know how much confidence I have in myself to be able to perform and I felt I did that with my assist. I felt I could have still created a few more chances but we got the win that was the main thing.”

Grealish was sent a screenshot by a friend after the final whistle, reminding him that the last time England went through the group stage without conceding saw them win the World Cup.

“It is a brilliant achievement to go through the three games without conceding. It shows everything we have been working on, on the training field has paid off,” he said. “But attacking-wise we can still step it up.

“We have got so much talent. I saw the manager say it in one of his interviews. He is bang on. We have so much talent all over the pitch going forward especially. We can obviously score more goals. I wouldn’t mind getting my first goal actually. I don’t know when that’s going to come along. I think I’m eight games in now, hopefully that comes soon. From the team’s point of view I’m happy all day just assisting.”

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