Jack Grealish and football need better from each other

Date published: Tuesday 31st March 2020 10:23

We’ve all been there. Sunday morning. An alleged 4am text from an alleged friend with an alleged invite to some sort of alleged gathering. The agonising over whether or not to adhere to a state-enforced lockdown restricting all non-essential movement during a global pandemic. The attempt to remember where you put your other furry black slipper.¬†Sophie’s bloody choice.

Except Meryl Streep was given an impossible question with no right answer. Jack Grealish had his decision made for him yet still picked the wrong path.

He was, of course, “deeply embarrassed”. By his actions, presumably, rather than by them being made public. He also expressed his “hope that everyone can accept my apology” in a 58-second video during which the word ‘sorry’ was never used.

That still sits neatly on Grealish’s Twitter timeline above a clip featuring advice on how to “help save lives” by staying at home and only leaving to buy food or medicine or to exercise.

It remains to be seen which category his weekend escapade falls under, although it hardly seemed like Joe Wicks levels of morning aerobics.

And the minor details and circumstances are not yet known. There was a white Range Rover, a picture of someone who looked an awful lot like Grealish, and some awfully questionable quotes from neighbours.

But it is important for public figures to frame this situation appropriately. To try and avoid glib football phrases about new leaves having been turned over; to consider how it might affect a player’s club and international prospects but also to look far beyond that; to think of the wider societal implications.

It is possible, particularly in such extreme circumstances, to admonish and criticise without feeling the need to sugarcoat. Grealish needs advice, guidance, direction, not more people pledging membership to his “biggest fan” club. Or the most damning indictment: that Stan Collymore would “more than likely” have done the same at 24.

Telling him he is a “good lad” is immaterial nonsense equivalent to watching someone plant their studs into an opponent’s flesh and referring to them as ‘not that sort of player’. It is obfuscation, the unnecessary muddying of clear waters. It’s unhelpful, perhaps most of all, to Grealish himself.

The only relevance his role as a footballer carries in this instance is as a popular captain who sets an example and should know better. Grealish hopefully realises that his true mistake was in his foolish, dangerous hypocrisy sending the wrong message, and not in letting Harry Redknapp, Danny Murphy or even Aston Villa down.

Matt Stead


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