Smith urges Grealish to silence his critics

Aston Villa
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith hailed a "captain's performance" from Jack Grealish as his side hit a last-gasp winner to beat 10-man Brighton 2-1 at Villa Park.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says playmaker Jack Grealish needs to prove his worth after being overlooked for the latest England squad.

Smith has managed to get the best out of Grealish this season, although he was still not part of Gareth Southgate’s latest squad on Thursday.

England play Montenegro and Kosovo later this month, but Southgate decided to recall Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, John Stones and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The England manager’s decision may well have been influenced by the fact that Grealish is currently nursing a calf injury, with his chances of playing against Wolves on Sunday  described as “50-50”.

Despite the injury, Southgate was still expected to call him up as the Three Lions try to qualify for the group stages of the European Championships.

The likes of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Hudson-Odoi are ahead of him in the pecking order for England, but Smith has challenged Grealish to showcase his skills in the coming weeks.

He told reporters: “Gareth has said he can play as a wide player or an attacking midfielder, as he has done with Aston Villa, last season and this season, so there are a number of different positions he can play.

“He will react as he has done before. We all saw what happened when he missed football for three months last season, coming back with a bang, with the volley against Derby, and an assist with his first ball forward.

“Your job is about trying to prove people wrong, and he will feel he is playing at a good enough level, so he will be a little bit frustrated, but all he can do is work hard for Aston Villa and make other people take notice.”

Villa will be hoping to move away from the relegation zone this weekend, with two defeats in three matches seeing them drop to 16th in the Premier League table.