Jack Grealish: Aston Villa captain says he 'wants to play for England'

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Aston Villa: When Villa captain Jack Grealish met England cricketer Chris Woakes

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish says he wants to "get himself into the England team" following an impressive start to the Premier League season.

Grealish, 24, represented the Republic of Ireland at youth level but declared himself available for England in 2015.

He played seven times for England Under-21s, but is yet to receive a call-up to the senior squad.

"As soon as I got to grips with the Premier League, I feel I have been performing much better," said Grealish.

"Personally I want to get myself into the England team and finish with as many goals and assists as possible."

In a Football Focus interview, conducted by Villa fan and England cricket international Chris Woakes, midfielder Grealish was asked about:

  • Returning to the Premier League
  • Realistic aims for the season
  • Favourite moments in a Villa shirt

Grealish also admits he would "probably" have left Villa had they missed out on promotion to the Premier League last season.

You can watch the full interview on BBC One on Saturday at 12:00 BST.

What has it been like returning to the Premier League?

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Villa lost to Fulham in the 2018 Championship play-off final, but made amends last season by beating Derby at Wembley to return to the top flight under manager Dean Smith.

They began the Premier League season with back-to-back defeats but have improved since, picking up 11 points from seven games to lie 12th in the table. Skipper Grealish has contributed two goals and three assists in those games.

"At the start it was tough," he said. "We lost the first two games but we could have got something in both.

"More recently, personally, I have got a few assists and goals and as a team with every game we are getting better.

"It was always going to take time, we brought in so many players over the summer, you need time to gel and we are getting there and hopefully we can push on.

"At the start of the season, my own form got knocked back a little when I gave the ball away for the Tottenham goal. The manager wanted me to get more goals and more assists and that is why he pushed me up the field a bit more.

"When I was growing up I never thought I would be the captain of Aston Villa at the age of 23. I captained the club back to the Premier League and then in the Premier League.

"It has been a crazy six, seven months. I try and help everyone in the dressing room but we have an experienced team. It is like we have 11 captains in there and it helped me. That little bit of responsibility makes me want to perform better."

What are his hopes and realistic aims for the season?

Aston Villa celebrate
Grealish captained Villa to victory in the Championship Play-Off final last season

Grealish was part of the Villa side that was relegated from the Premier League in 2015-16 after finishing bottom of the table.

On Saturday they travel to champions Manchester City for the 12:30 BST kick-off.

Grealish said: "Before the season I sat down with the manager for around two hours and we were both on the same page. We did not want to come into the Premier League and just finish 17th, we want to finish as high as possible.

"Look at what our neighbours Wolves did last season, they ended up in Europe. If you look around our team, we have so much talent such as Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi.

"Everyone in the changing room has already been speaking about the City game this week. They are the games you want to play - live on TV against the best players in the world.

"Them and Liverpool are arguably the best teams in the league. It is a perfect game for us to go into on the back of two wins and we are all looking forward to it."

Favourite moments in a Villa shirt

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish
Last season, Grealish was attacked on the pitch in the derby against Birmingham City

Grealish has experienced highs and lows in a Villa shirt, playing in an FA Cup final at the age of 19 and being punched by a spectator in the derby at Birmingham last season before going on to score the winner.

Asked about his favourite moments, he said: "Early one is playing Liverpool in the 2015 FA Cup semi-final. I had been in the first team for about a month and then a month later I was playing at Wembley against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.

"When I look back on it, their team was frightening. We went 1-0 down and pulled it back to win 2-1 and it was one of the best days of my life. Going up to my family after, it did not seem real. I was only 19.

"More recently was the game against Birmingham at St Andrew's. Everything that happened in the game, I remember saying to myself, 'you have to score today and win'. I would have looked more like an idiot if I tried to retaliate but that derby is always crazy.

"When we were warming up, you just felt so much tension in the stadium. You are captain of Villa and I always remember watching Gabby Agbonlahor playing against them and he always scored, especially at their place. For me to get the winner, it was unbelievable.

"The 2019 play-off final was another. I did not have the best game but it was about one thing - to go out and win. Derby had a decent team with Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and they are all good players.

"Personally for me, I was going to leave Villa if we did not get promoted. Not saying I wanted to but I probably would have had to. If we won, it was me captaining Villa in the Premier League, if not then I would not be wearing a Villa kit the next season. There was a lot of pressure and thankfully we won."

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