Noted Aston Villa fan Ger Gilroy shared his enthusiasm for the young Aston Villa star Jack Grealish on Wednesday's OTB AM. Such was the extent of this impression, is it fair to suggest that the Republic of Ireland will in time come to rue losing Grealish even more than his West Ham United counterpart, Declan Rice?
The bold statement that Grealish will appear to be a bigger loss seems unlikely when you look at where the two stand stats-wise as 20-year-old players in the Premier League.
Assessing the 23-year-old Grealish on his brief stint as a Premier League player, any comparison with the impressive rice seems wide of the mark. Promising a lot, it is notable that two different managers had serious causes for concern.
Former Villa boss Remi Garde said of Grealish: “His actions are not of the professional standard that I expect from my players,” following on from an incident where he went out after his side had suffered a 4-0 loss to Everton.
Subsequently, Roberto Di Matteo continued to have issues with the young winger: “It’s not the first time and he needs to understand if he wants a good career he has to stop.”
However, Grealish has unquestionably matured over the three-year spell. According to current Villa boss Dean Smith, he has been impressed with Grealish's "desire to get better.” While it’s looking up for Grealish, however, we need to consider that Rice is a quality player already, with much better discipline for a 20 year old.
Holding-midfielder Rice has been amazing with 98 tackles in the Premier League this year, putting him 7th for most tackles in this Premier league season.
As a defensive player, his prospects for the future look incredible with 34 appearances and even 2 goals added on this season. It can be dangerous to judge a player on one season's form, however, but if he can maintain and improve upon this quality, Rice will already be someway ahead of Grealish by the time he reaches 23.
For Ireland to really rue losing them, we should already be worried about filling their position. Prospect wise, Ireland have some quality prospects, looking at Adam Idah, Ryan Cassidy and Troy Parrott. In defense are some equally exciting prospects like Lee O’Connor but overall a defensive player might be what Ireland need looking at the depth of attacking talent that could work out.
It may be too early to look at these young players as Ireland's next stars but working off their current form that seems to be where we stand.
So while Grealish may end up playing a much more entertaining style of football in years to come and people may end up pining for his skilled play, a solid defensive player like Rice could be what Ireland end up needing in the future.
Written by Hugh Farrell.