Jack Grealish has said that the nerves of representing England at a major international tournament will be nothing compared to his driving test, when he stalled the car and immediately left for training.
Grealish is quickly becoming one of the most popular members of Gareth Southgate’s squad, not least for the ease and assurance of his playing style, which belies an international career that is still only seven caps old.
The Aston Villa captain has no problem shifting through the gears on the pitch but it was a very different story six years ago, when as an up-and-coming 19-year-old, he had his test booked in the days leading up to the FA Cup final.
When asked if he ever feels nervous in everyday situations, Grealish said: “You hit the nail on the head there with my driving test. I hated it.
“I had to be in at Villa after it because we were leading up to the FA Cup final and I still wasn’t driving. I think it was the Thursday and the final was the Saturday and they wanted me in.
“So I had my driving test and straight away as soon as I pulled out of the test centre I stalled the car and I knew that I’d failed straight away, so I just said to the guy after two minutes “have I failed mate?” and he was like “nah, carry on”. But I knew that I’d failed so I just got out of the car and went to training.”
Grealish says he never feels similarly anxious when representing either club or country though, having established himself as one of the leading creative talents in the Premier League and now hoping to dazzle at Euro 2020.
“I’m confident in my ability, and I wasn’t confident in my driving ability,” he said. “With football I just try and go out and play, at the end of the day I’ve done it my whole life, I’ve done it every day in training, I’ve done it as a kid playing in these games.
“When I step onto the pitch playing in a big game I just tell myself it’s just a game of football, it’s what I’ve done my whole life. I just try and take it in my stride, I don’t change anything, I just go with the flow and do what I normally do.”
After Grealish stood out in England’s two warm-up games against Austria and Romania, there has been plenty of clamour for him to start Sunday’s Group D opener against Croatia, though there are also concerns over whether he is suited to playing with Harry Kane.
Kane has shown a more creative side to his game this season, dropping deeper to provide for runners like Son Heung-min, and ended the campaign with more assists than any other top-flight player as well as being the top scorer.
That is also part of Grealish’s game but he believes that he can improve and build on his ability to run in behind and form a prolific partnership with the England captain, and Villa manager Dean Smith is encouraging him to do just that.
“[Kane] got a lot of assists obviously but you’ve got to remember how many goals he got as well,” Grealish said.
“He’s an unbelievable player, every year he’s got better and better. I see what you mean though, obviously from some of the assists he’s had this season for the likes of Son and [Lucas] Moura there’ve been runners in behind.
“That’s another thing that I can work on, as soon as I finished the game the other night Dean Smith messaged me saying: ‘Well done but you needed to run in behind more’. So it’s something I still need to work on, to mix up my game.
“You look at Mason Mount, he’s so good with the ball coming to feet but he can also run in behind. So it’s probably something I can improve on and that I will try to improve on.”
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