There is something about Jack Grealish which has set Graeme Souness off. The TV, radio and newspaper pundit even drags Pep Guardiola into it.
It is the headline Mediawatch dreaded reading on Friday morning, right down to the full-story length, randomly capitalised word and proper football mannerisms to continue this laborious and entirely one-sided feud.
As Graeme Souness said on Thursday: “I’m on talkSPORT with you guys, which I’m loving. I have a column with the Daily Mail, in which I get a chance to express my opinion and I’m on Sky. I’ve had over 50 years in the game, I think I’m entitled to an opinion.”
Jack Grealish never suggested otherwise, of course, but Souness is willing to pretend otherwise in his third incredibly high-profile platform.
‘GRAEME SOUNESS: Players are far too molly-coddled these days and get away scot-free as fingers are rarely pointed at them… the likes of Jack Grealish need to DEAL with the criticism that comes their way!’
‘I seem to have caused Jack Grealish offence by saying that I think he is a good player but not a great one, on the evidence of what I’ve seen in his first year or so at a big Premier League club,’ he begins.
Grealish did admittedly say “I don’t know what his problem is with me” and that “he always says stuff about me,” when asked about Souness. The Scot really does disprove that by slagging Grealish off in his newspaper column instead of his radio slot or TV punditry gig.
Only one party seems to have been ’caused offence’ here. And it’s not the one who laughed at the initial question put to him in an England press conference.
Souness proceeds to explain to the professional footballer, Britain’s most expensive player and someone Pep Guardiola “is more than happy and delighted with”, exactly what the sport is about. Men at it, blow for blow, presumably.
‘But football is not just about dribbling past one player, dribbling past a second player and then giving the ball away when you try to take on the third.
‘It’s about seeing the picture – the right picture – on the pitch. It’s about delivering the right pass. Quickly. Moving the ball on. Quickly. Doing this relentlessly, week after week after week.
‘And then, on top of that, the hard yards without the ball, which Manchester City do better than anyone at the moment. This is what all the great players do.
‘I’ve been over 50 years in this game and I think I’m entitled to express an opinion on these matters…’
Yep. No-one has ever suggested otherwise. Not Grealish, not Mediawatch, not George Weah’s cousin.
‘…but the modern player doesn’t take criticism well.’
And now we go live to the pathetic, touchy, “precious” modern player:
🤣🤣 let’s do it!! As long as I can bring Pogba as a +1
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) September 22, 2022
‘The criticism all goes one way now – with the coach and the manager getting it for his tactics, his team selection, for his substitutions and anything else you want to mention, while players get away scot-free most of the time. Fingers are rarely pointed at them.’
Right on. Players are never criticised, targeted or vilified. Why are fingers so rarely pointed at Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold or Mason Mount? How come they get away with absolutely everything and there is never any focus on their performances?
‘Grealish, just like me, moved to a big side for a record transfer fee between two English clubs so I think I know something about that experience.’
Again, no arguments there. But let’s not pretend that joining Liverpool in 1978 for £352,000 – a record fee between English clubs – is overly comparable to a British record £100m move in 2021. Souness knows approximately nothing about that particular experience.
‘There was no molly-coddling. The equation was very simple: either you had the mentality to play for a big club or you were off down the road.’
Is the implication here that Grealish does not have that ‘mentality’? Because if not it’s a very random aside to add. And if so it seems like a load of b*llocks.
‘Grealish has to pick and choose who he listens to. He might think my opinion’s not worth listening to. I can certainly live with that. The only one who matters is his manager.’
Well Grealish has already said he tries not to read what Souness says and is concentrating on doing what Guardiola asks of him so we can tick those boxes.
‘He has said, in response to my comments, that Pep Guardiola is asking him to keep the ball and not move it on quickly. Well, forgive me for stating the obvious, but I would contend that you are in a game of football to score goals.’
Is Souness arguing with Guardiola now? Is he suggesting Grealish should ignore his manager’s tactical demands and aim simply ‘to score goals’? Even though his manager has publicly declared that “we didn’t sign for the incredible goals or assists at Aston Villa”?
After a further explanation as to what the game is ‘about’ and ‘not about’, Souness concludes:
‘There are very obvious upsides that come along with a big move in football. A lifestyle beyond your wildest dreams. Glamour you could never imagine, playing for a huge club.
‘The downsides, if you want to call them that, are the pressure and the scrutiny and the need to be bang at it – all of the time.
‘These are not downsides at all if you’re a proper player because you know the deal and what people say won’t impact on you. But if you transfer for a huge fee like that, there’s an expectation. To Grealish, I would say: ‘Live with it. Deal with it.”
And to Souness, Grealish might say, “I’ve had to learn to deal with it”. Or “sometimes when people are saying it, whether it is trolls on Twitter or Instagram or stuff like that, that doesn’t bother me at all”. Or maybe “when I signed for Man City and the price that came with it, I knew it wasn’t going to all be laughs unless I started the way Erling Haaland did. That’s the only way I wouldn’t get caned.”
Those were all among the points Grealish made on Tuesday and Souness happily ignored while dismantling his very own straw man by Friday. And now we wait for the Grealish response to keep this infernal cycle going.
(War is over)
‘The war of words between Jack Grealish and Graeme Souness has continued with the Manchester City ace taking up an offer from the former Liverpool boss for a night out’ – the Daily Mirror website, who really could do with double-checking what they write.
In The Sun, Martin Blackburn offers this titbit to Manchester United fans, under a website headline of: ‘Man Utd vow to make MORE signings for Erik ten Hag despite racking up huge £116m net loss after summer transfer spree,’ reads the headline’
‘MANCHESTER UNITED plan to carry on spending despite boss Erik ten Hag already splashing out a club record £220million,’ he writes.
How surprising that one of the most valuable clubs in world football won’t randomly impose an unnecessary transfer ban.