Jack Grealish: I enjoy Gazza comparison but need to shine at a major tournament19 November 2020
Jack Grealish admits he enjoys being likened to Paul Gascoigne – but insists he needs to shine at a major tournament with England before he will accept any comparisons. The Aston Villa captain had a career-defining international break, breaking into the England team and performing to a high level. Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate said after the Nations League defeat to Belgium on Sunday that Grealish had "100 per cent" jumped up the pecking order following a fine display. There had been a clamour for Grealish to feature more prominently for his country as the 25-year-old continues a fine start to the season with Villa. His style and execution has seen early parallels drawn with Gascoigne, who became a national favourite during an England career spanning a decade. Grealish is the latest player to be compared to the former Tottenham man, who helped England to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96. "I thrive off those kind of comparisons. I love Gazza," said Grealish. "I've watched his documentary on Netflix about a million times. I love his character on the pitch and off the pitch. "I loved the way he played football with such freedom and such joy. You hear so many people speak about him and say he was just a joy to watch – and I think that is the biggest compliment that you can have really. "When people say to me: 'It is just a joy to watch you', it makes me happy because that is what I want to do. I just want to entertain people. "But I also want to be effective on the pitch, just like Gazza was. But those comparisons, I think are obviously far away yet because I have not even played at a tournament, like he did. "He thrived on the biggest stage and, until I do that, I think I can't really be compared to him at the moment." Gascoigne was also no stranger to making headlines on the front of newspapers as well as the back. It is a place where Grealish found himself earlier this year as he breached government advice against non-essential travel during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He issued a public apology for the incident in March and had now acknowledged he can influence plenty of people with his behaviour. "Years ago I didn't really think it was a thing on the pitch, it was more off the pitch where I still thought I was just Jack from Solihull and I could just go out and do what I want," he added. "But as you get older you probably learn that you are a hero to a lot of young lads. You are a role model and you need to watch what you're doing. "That's not saying I still won't make mistakes, because I probably will, but I feel like I have grown up over the years. "Hopefully I can carry on doing that. I am captain now of a Premier League club and I have got to take it all in my stride, because at the moment, I am just absolutely loving my life."
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