‘Reckless clown’ Grealish plays out fans’ fantasy as Man City’s national treasure laps up Treble glory

Lewis Oldham
Grealish celebrates in style

Jack Grealish has celebrated winning the Treble just like most of us would if we were in the Manchester City star’s shoes.

In the not-too-distant past, he would have been labelled a ‘clown’ for his party boy antics, but after being nurtured into a bloody good footballer (and bloody good bloke), he’s now a fully-fledged national treasure… 

 

A year is a long time in football and nothing illustrates that quite like Jack Grealish’s growth over the past 12 months.

The maverick Englishman joined Manchester City for a huge British record fee of £100m from Aston Villa in 2021 and despite him winning the Premier League in his debut season, his first year at the Etihad did not really go to plan.

After lighting up Villa Park at his boyhood club, Grealish appeared overawed for large portions of his debut campaign at Man City as the usually brash attacker was left playing within himself in fear of making mistakes.

His lacklustre opening season at Man City led to premature reports linking him with a summer exit in 2022. These links felt pretty rash at the time and his performances this season have made them look even sillier in the rear-view mirror.

Grealish’s stats look a little underwhelming, but that does not tell the whole story of a player who has blossomed into a sensational  wide man who offers Pep Guardiola just as much in defence in crunch games as he does going forward.

While Grealish was in and out of the team in 2021/22, he has since ensured that he is one of the first names on Guardiola’s team sheet in the games that matter. 2730 minutes in 21/22 have become 3486 minutes in 22/23. Frankly, the fact that such a superb talent like Phil Foden has barely had a look-in of late shows just how good his England teammate has been.

Man City would not be Treble winners without Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and John Stones, but Grealish’s name should be mentioned in the same breath as that quartet.

Pep Guardiola has no doubt been helped by City’s massive budget over the past seven years, but there are few managers better when it comes to turning promising but flawed players into world-class talents.

He is always looking to adapt so his already-excellent Man City team does not stand still, with the recent progression of defender-turned-midfielder Stones and the development of Grealish into a well-rounded attacker particularly impressive.

Grealish has a place in the hearts of fans all around England and that was evident during the delayed European Championships in 2021.

Three Lions supporters clamoured for Grealish to rise from the bench and while Gareth Southgate resisted being pulled along by popular opinion during that tournament, if the 27-year-old’s career remains on its current upward trajectory, the City standout will not be denied ahead of next year’s European Championships.

His cult hero status is challenging Paul Gascoigne and his status has only increased as footage has flooded in of Grealish celebrating winning the Treble in glorious style.

Manchester City forward Jack Grealish celebrates

At Monday evening’s trophy parade, Kyle Walker had to hold Grealish up as his teammate drank anything he could get his hands on. He evidently lapped up City’s brief trip to Ibiza after their Champions League triumph in Istanbul and he admitted that he had not yet been to sleep as the club’s heroes toured the streets of Manchester. He clearly did not want his three-day bender to come to an end; and how can you blame him?

There is something particularly wholesome about watching Grealish stumble around while celebrating the finest moment of his career so far.

Really, this is because he feels like one of us. Supporters of various clubs up and down the country would obviously love to copy his antics if they were in his shoes. And as a football fans’ footballer, he knows the best way to lap up such success is to get paralytically drunk.

At a time when the riches of modern-day football leave its players increasingly cut adrift from supporters, Grealish is a welcome anomaly.

READ MORE: Inside Manchester City’s celebrations… Lautaro Martinez gatecrashes as Grealish rejects sleep

This has not always been the case, though. During his time at Villa, Grealish regularly found himself on the back pages as he was targeted for his laddish behaviour.

Piers Morgan called Grealish a ‘selfish, reckless clown’ for partying in 2020 when the coronavirus lockdown was still in full force.

While this strong take is a bit rich coming from a kn*b like Morgan, it was the opinion plenty of people held of Grealish during the early stages of his career.

These moments in the spotlight for the wrong reasons could have led to Grealish spiralling out of control, but he has kept his head down when it matters to reach the pinnacle of football.

As Grealish’s career has progressed, we have learned about the kind of person he is behind his party boy persona. He’s always the first to do his part for charity and give his time to fans in a less privileged position. Perhaps the finest example of this is his relationship with young City fan Finley, who suffers from cerebral palsy; he was the inspiration behind Grealish’s goal celebration in England’s 6-1 win over Iran at last year’s World Cup.

Occasionally the media’s vilification of footballers is justified, but there are clearly times when it’s needless. While Grealish does love a beer and he’s made the odd mistake, he’s certainly not a ‘reckless clown’ and his stellar form for Man City warrants his admirable commitment to his post-Champions League final booze-fest.

England *should* be able to cope with Grealish being on the sidelines for their upcoming qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, and it’s a bloody good job, really. His sore head may last for some time but he won’t mind one iota and I love him for that.

READ MORE: Liverpool, Man Utd, City linchpins among top ten Prem titans requiring a succession plan…