Of all the characteristics attributed to Jack Grealish, I was blissfully unaware of what great thighs he has. Twitter put me right.
The oft asked question centres around whether Grealish is worth the £100 million Manchester City have laid out for him. The far too common reply goes: ‘He’s worth what someone is prepared to pay for him.’ A kop out answer like no other, writes Vernon Grant.
Of course Grealish is not worth that money. No footballer is worth the sums being paid today. Great thighs or not, they are only flesh and blood. Like you and I.
To be fair to Grealish, however, he may be the addition to an already strong squad that goes on to secure the Champions League for City. If, that is, Pep Guardiola plays him often enough.
After all, I was in the room when Nottingham Forest signed Trevor Francis for £1 million and the watching world thought football had lost its mind. Trevor was good. Trevor was exciting. A favourite player of mine. But he’d only been playing for a Midlands club that was never going to win titles. Does that ring any bells?
Trevor and I were there in jacket and tie. Brian Clough turned up in his squash outfit. The delightful Helen Francis was there in her fox fur jacket. The late Helen was the best advisor Trevor ever had. She kept his feet where they belonged. On the ground. Nottingham Forest went on to win the European Cup before it became the less enjoyable, but richer, Champions League. Francis made the difference to that side. Clough knew he would. He was right.
Jack Grealish might be the final piece of the Guardiola jigsaw. How long can Pep hang on, spending billions, to secure for City the title he and the owners crave. It needs to be soon. As John Brewin – a witty and wise watcher of human behaviour when it comes to football – tweeted this week, Guardiola is showing signs of morphing into Jose Mourinho. None of us want that.
I don’t know Jack’s girlfriend, Sasha, as I knew Mrs. Francis. I don’t know her at all. It is safe to assume that her YouTube channel is not aimed at me. I’ve never seen Grealish play live. My friend Adil Ray, a Villa fan, has often watched him and eulogises about Jack the lad. I didn’t see enough of Grealish in the Euros. None of us did. Although his run and cross to set up Harry Kane for a goal that secured victory against Germany gave me an inkling of the difference Grealish can make to any side.
At the time of writing a seemingly contrite Harry Kane is making a u-turn and flying back to Spurs from Florida. Forgive him. He was probably unaware that the sunshine state was the new American hotspot for the deadly spread of Covid-19. I doubt he was mixing with the locals too much. Probably busy talking to his agent. Debating who would blink first. Kane or Daniel Levy, a man Harry Redknapp described thus: “Daniel doesn’t do emotions. He doesn’t do feelings. I’m telling you, you’re dealing with a very cold, calculating man when it comes to business.”
For all Grealish and Aston Villa handled his exit with good grace and in a professional manner, it is beginning to look as though Harry Kane may have been badly advised to stay away from the early days of pre-season training. Having seen Manchester City pay £100 million for Grealish, did Daniel Levy up the asking price for Kane? I do not know. But Kane coming home with his tail between his legs makes me wonder if a move to City is off. At least for the time being. We shall know soon enough.
Grealish is young. If he avoids serious injury, he is the type of investment for City that Trevor Francis was for Nottingham Forest. And anyway, the Manchester City owners can find that money down the back of their sofa. Harry Kane, however, is knocking on a bit and known to be injury prone. He and Grealish would make Man City firm favourites to win the Champions League (although a PSG including the two amigos of Neymar and Messi would be serious rivals).
Is Harry Kane able to swallow his pride and play on for the Tottenham Hotspur club he has been loyal to for so long? How dense is he or his agent to believe a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with Daniel Levy is worth the paper it is or isn’t written on?
Jack Grealish sat down with the Villa hierarchy and agreed a scenario whereby he could leave the club he loves and has served for the majority of his young life. In the end, it’s a move that suits all concerned (with the exception of some disgruntled Villa fans).
It will be interesting to witness how Spurs supporters react when Kane plays again. Knowing that he wanted away. He knows where the ‘onion bag’ is and not all so called strikers appear to these days. He wants to win things and that’s unlikely to happen at Tottenham. Like Grealish, he wants Champions League football. To test himself at the highest level. As he should. But there appears to be a difference between how the two men and their representatives have gone about making it happen.
I don’t care what any apologist for the way Premier League and Championship clubs are run has to say. Football clubs are, in the main, badly run businesses. Too many spending far more in wages than they have coming in through the turnstiles and other sources of revenue. Economics of the insane.
But then, on the face of what he had already done at Birmingham City, many believed Trevor Francis wasn’t worth a million quid. I recall one headline, supported by that press conference photo of Mr and Mrs Francis, suggesting he was “all fur coat and no knickers.” It was wrong in more ways than one.
I watched Trevor head the goal that won Forest the 1979 European Cup. He made the difference. For Forest, his acquisition was money well spent.
The Manchester City of today bares little resemblance to the club I first loved in the days of Summerbee, Francis and my idol, the recently departed Colin Bell. But I hope things work out well there for Jack Grealish. I like the way he speaks and, from what I have seen, I like the way he plays.
Here’s hoping those thighs don’t get kicked too often Or else they will be black as well as blue.
**As ever, I shall be offering football match analysis and betting tips throughout the new season. Matches in all English leagues, the FA Cup and knockout stages of the Champions League. And Scottish football expert Robert Ryan will provide football tips for games north of the border. To receive regular previews and tips, click on this link to join VG Tips.