MICAH RICHARDS: Grealish may regret decision to stay at Aston Villa

MICAH RICHARDS: Jack Grealish may regret his decision to stay at Aston Villa and I worry for his progress away from a top club… plus Frank Lampard has a challenge in keeping his Chelsea stars happy

  • Jack Grealish has signed a new five-year deal to stay at boyhood club Aston Villa
  • There was plenty of interest from top clubs including Manchester United 
  • I don’t want Jack to have regretted his decision now later on down the line
  • Meanwhile, Frank Lampard must keep stars happy after a raft of new signings 

In this week’s Sportsmail column, Micah Richards worries that former team-mate Jack Grealish could come to regret his decision to stay on at Aston Villa

Jack Grealish blew me away the first time I trained with him. He was 20 back then, a young lad bursting with confidence who played football with the ease of the best kid on the schoolyard.

It all came so naturally. I’ve never seen anyone be able to dribble as he does, how he dances around a man without needing a trick. Along with Daniel Sturridge and Michael Johnson, my old Manchester City team-mates, Jack is one of the top three young players I’ve played with. He’s that good.

You should also know how much he loves Aston Villa. He’s been there since he was six, he’s fan living out every other supporter’s dream. Jack is their leader and the news he has signed a bumper new contract this week gave everyone a huge lift. He’s over the moon and deserves the rewards.

Personally, I’m delighted for him. He’s a lovely lad who you cannot help but like. I’m impressed, too, with the way Villa have invested this summer and I’m confident they will stay up again. It’s a huge help that all questions about his future have been put aside. He is going to thrive.

Part of me wonders, though, whether this deal means he has missed his chance to play for a top Premier League club. Manchester United’s interest in him, was well trailed through the summer but, for one reason or another, speculation did not result in a move to Old Trafford.

Jack Grealish has signed a new contract at Aston Villa, but he may yet come to regret it 

Plenty of clubs have looked at Jack down the years. My understanding is there was some recent interest from Manchester City and if anyone had asked my opinion, my reply would have been short: “Sign him!” I’m not being disrespectful to Villa, I’m just saying he has what it takes to play at the very top.

I was told Tottenham also bid in the region of £15million for him one summer, which Villa deemed too low. Maybe £5m more would have been enough and you have to think that such an investment would now have been worth treble that. That’s how much he has progressed.

Yet it’s fair to question how far his progression at Villa can go. His situation reminds me a little bit of when I was emerging at City. When I was 19 and 20, the City of then was not the City of now. I was regarded as one of the best players in the team and there was a lot of interest.

Liverpool and Chelsea both wanted to sign me; Manchester United were also eager though there was never any chance of City doing a deal with them. I’d been in the England squad for a couple of years something inside me meant I didn’t want to leave all I knew at City.

Jack Grealish is one of the best young players I’ve played with along with Michael Johnson (left) and Daniel Sturridge (right)

Fortunately, everything turned out well. City found significant investment and I ended up winning the Premier League a few years later but I know that had fate taken a different course, my career could have gone differently and I could have regretted not leaving.

That is the one thing I don’t want for Jack and how Villa fare in the coming years will dictate how he’ll look back on this decision. In those first sessions at Bodymoor Heath, Villa’s training ground, I could see an England player in the making.

If you had asked me then how many caps he would have had by the age of 25, I’d certainly have hoped it would be more than the one cap he received in Denmark 12 days ago. He was called up as result of withdrawals, he needs to be called up because Gareth Southgate can’t resist his claims.

Jack has had some issues away from the pitch, but nothing has ever come from malice. When he is with his mates, he is just one of the lads and I don’t think he realises sometimes how much people are interested in the things he does.

He is the best thing to happen at Villa for a decade and the leader of the dressing room. Jack is at a big club with a rich tradition but inevitably it would be a different experience for him were he to move to one of the clubs currently challenging at the top of the table.

Grealish has run into problems away from the pitch but never anything too serious 

I am totally convinced he has got the talent to be at the top level. I’m delighted for him on a personal level that he is happy and has reached an agreement with the club. Still, part of me – and I expected many other football fans – would be intrigued to see him on the biggest stage.

Will he be one of the few in the modern game to stay at one club his whole career? Maybe so. If he does, then the fans will regard him as one of the all-time legends. Loyalty isn’t easily found in the game these days and there’s something refreshing about his decision.

It broke his heart to lose the Carabao Cup final in March. A career is short and opportunities to win medals don’t come along so often. My hope is he’ll be remembered one day not just for loyalty and playing a lot of games. His talent means he should be remembered as a winner.

Frank’s challenge is keeping stars happy

Chelsea started the season with a win at Brighton, as everyone anticipated, but there is no doubt the performance can be improved upon.

Frank Lampard has recruited heavily this summer and it will take time for things to gel. I wondered watching Timo Werner, cutting in from the left, whether he would benefit from Olivier Giroud playing in the centre to bring him into play.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Lampard, though, will be maintaining unity in the squad. I can see parallels to Manchester City in 2007, when eight players came in at the beginning of Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign.

Now Frank Lampard has signed stars like Timo Werner, his issue is keeping them all happy

When you see so many new faces arrive, there is tension in the squad.

Those who have been regulars start wondering about what it means for their place and I remember the atmosphere being difficult before things eventually settled down.

There is no question Chelsea have talent, but harmony is just as important if they want success.

Man of the week   

Gareth Bale — what a signing! I’m delighted Tottenham are doing this deal because it is the least typical Tottenham deal you could imagine.

Bale won’t come cheap and he’s 31, which usually means Daniel Levy would shy away from it. But there is something romantic about it all and the best thing for Bale is the fact he is coming home.

I cannot wait to see how he performs.

He once said I was his hardest opponent. Well, let me tell you, the feeling was mutual. When I used to play against Gareth, I’d try to make my first tackle count and smash him. With some wingers, two or three heavy challenges and they would disappear for the rest of the game — not Gareth. 

Gareth Bale is a brilliant signing for Tottenham and there is a certain romance to it 

The more you hit him, the more he came back at you. Usually in the second half, he would be flying past and it was like trying to keep pace with a machine. One game against him stands out, when Manchester City drew 0-0 at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season in 2010.

Joe Hart saved my life that day as Gareth turned me inside out. Joe made four unbelievable saves.

If Gareth comes back and produces form anywhere near that level — we don’t know if he will, as we haven’t seen him play lately — Tottenham will be on to a winner.

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