Jack Grealish says he is thriving on the comparisons being made between him and one of England’s most audacious playmakers, Paul Gascoigne.
The Aston Villa captain was among a host of star performers on his third consecutive England start as Gareth Southgate’s team signed off a testing year of international football with a comprehensive 4-0 Nations League victory over Iceland at Wembley.
Grealish was asked by reporters after another impressive display about comparisons to Gazza and the 25-year-old welcomed the praise, vowing to continue to entertain with his performances.
“I thrive off those kind of comparisons [to Gascoigne],” Grealish told reporters after England concluded their Nations League campaign on Wednesday night.
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“I love the way he played football with all the freedom and all the joy… I want to entertain people but I always want to be effective on the pitch like Gazza was too.”
Grealish burst onto the scene in the Premier League early in his career, but has had to bide his time for sustained international exposure.
Having faced media scrutiny after a number of late-night incidents in recent years, Grealish says he has matured and can handle the pressure that comes with his new-found England profile.
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“I think I’m now old enough and wise enough to handle that [pressure] now,” he said.
“As you get older, you learn you are a hero to a lot of people and you are a role model. I’ve got to take it in my stride, and I’m just loving my life.”
Grealish’s seamless start to England life has given manager Southgate a selection headache as preparations for next summer’s European Championships draw into focus.
But, speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Southgate insisted it was the kind of dilemma managers can only dream of as he looks to steer the next generation of English talent to glory.
“The reality is that a lot of the squad we’ve had over the last three months are going to peak in three to five years’ time, that’s when they will have a lot of caps, a lot of experience internationally and more club experience,” the England boss said.
“We think it’s worth investing the time in them and they are learning a lot from some very good senior professionals.
“We are trying to build and improve all the time, and there was some lovely football that was good to watch and, of course, for the young ones to get the goals, it was special for them.
“Right from the back the play was built so well, we moved it crisply and took up good positions, and the movement of Phil (Foden), Jack (Grealish) and Harry (Kane) was excellent.”
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