Jack Grealish ready for a kicking... as long as it helps England at Euros

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 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

Jack Grealish says he is willing to take a kicking to help England to success at the European Championship and insists he cannot play in fear of injury.

The Aston Villa midfielder was the most fouled player in the Premier League this season, despite starting just 24 matches and missing three months with a shin injury, which remains troublesome.

Grealish has continued to be a target in England’s No.7 shirt and was repeatedly fouled in the 1-0 win over Austria at the Riverside Stadium in their opening warm-up match for Euro 2020.

The 25-year-old says he is happy to be on the receiving end of rough treatment if it means more opportunities for England’s host of free-kick specialists.

Asked if he took the fouls as a compliment, Grealish said: “Yeah, of course. Not so much for Villa because we haven’t got that many good free-kick takers but here we’re blessed with them.

“We have Trent [Alexander-Arnold], we have Tripps [Kieran Trippier], we have H[arry Kane].

“The standard here when we do free-kicks after training is just unbelievable. So as long as I can keep getting as many fouls in and around the box…

“A coach always said to me when I was younger – it was actually Martin O’Neill – he said: ‘You never, ever want to get kicked in your own half because there’s no point, you can’t do anything there. Try and get kicked around the edge of the box or in the box as much as possible’.

“I was a bit young and I thought, ‘Ah, Ok’. But now obviously I understand why. I’ll take the kicks to help my team, definitely.”

Grealish was replaced to a standing ovation from the 8,000-strong crowd in Middlesbrough but immediately put an ice pack on his right shin, which kept him sidelined from February until mid-May.

“I’m a little bit aware of it,” he said. “But not as much as before and I’m just working hard to try and get rid of that and try and do everything I can to make them feel better.

“Obviously there was a point where I thought, ‘Listen, I need to get back into playing club football because I need to give myself at least three or four games to give myself a chance to be in the Euro squad’. Luckily I did that and it’s just looking forward from here on.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“There was one tackle against Austria, the first one, which really really hurt,” he added.

“It was when Jesse [Lingard] gave me the ball on the left. That was one tackle that went onto my shin where I’ve been quite sore.

“But I think I’ve got this – I don’t know if it’s a quality, I’d like to say it is – of riding challenges. Even though I get fouled and go down, I ride them quite well.

“I’m going to touch wood there. Obviously, the way I play I’m going to get kicked all the time and I can’t really be running with the ball and thinking at the back of my head, ‘If I get kicked here, I’m one kick away’.

“Trent did his [thigh] just by kicking the ball away. So it’s one of those when if it ever happens it is part and parcel, it is what comes with the way I play.”

Grealish was on holiday in Marbella and Ibiza for England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in summer 2018 and he struggled to put into words his excitement at potentially being part of another unifying run at the Euros.

“I can’t even explain to you,” he said.

“I’d absolutely love to be. Even when I was in the squad the other day, I got the No7 shirt and got so many messages from family and friends saying they were going out straight away to buy a shirt.

“In the last two or three years everyone has talked about that summer of 2018 and me watching on was unbelievable but being part of it is what I’ve wanted to do all season.”

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