Jack Grealish still has time to book his spot in England’s Euro 2020 squad, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith believes.
The midfielder made his return from three months out in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Everton.
Villa skipper Grealish had been struggling with a shin problem which had kept him out since February and damaged his chances of making Gareth Southgate’s squad for this summer’s delayed Euros.
Southgate can name an extended 26-man squad, which will be announced on May 25, and despite his injury lay-off Smith is confident Grealish – who has five caps – will be included.
He said: “First and foremost, he’s got to be chosen to go to the Euros. I’m sure he will be, such has been his quality this season. I’ve no doubt that in the final three games he’ll continue to show that.
“Obviously I’m not picking the team for England but if he gets game time, he will certainly show what he’s about.
“I trust my medical staff and the handover policies we’ll have with England. He’ll be managed correctly, no doubts about that. We look forward to having a fit Jack Grealish back for the Euros should he get selected.
“Jack’s always had his feet firmly on the ground. He’s become a really mature captain of the football club.
“I witnessed that just going in at half-time (on Thursday). He was one of the first ones already chatting to the players about what we can do a little bit better.
“He has matured as a lad. He understands the game, that’s for sure. That’s why he’s playing at the top level.”
Mid-table Villa go to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday and, like Grealish, Wilfried Zaha is the Eagles’ talisman.
The forward has 10 goals this season, but despite Zaha and Grealish’s influence, Smith insisted neither Palace nor Villa are over-reliant on their stars.
He said: “That’s very unfair on both teams. This is only our second season in the Premier League, we’re building a team that we feel can be capable of fighting for Europe.
“Jack will be the first to say the team has improved this season, the quality of players has improved.
“I just look at the team now: Ezri Konsa is pushing for an international spot, as is Matt Targett, Ollie Watkins has already got into the England team and we’ve got John McGinn who’s getting better and better for Scotland.
“So the quality of our team is getting better and better and that’s what we need to continue to do. Jack is an exceptional talent so it’s very hard to get many players of that level. But we’re certainly working on the players we’ve got.”