I consider myself lucky to be writing this article, incredibly fortunate that Jack Grealish exists, that he stayed at Villa this long and that I have watched virtually every single second of his impassioned and glorious career thus far. I know I am not alone in proclaiming him my favorite ever Villa player, and he is certainly the most gifted that I have seen don the famous claret and blue to represent the pride of Birmingham. A season ticket holder from the age of four, and Villa roots that stretch way back to his great-great Grandfather (Billy Garraty) winning the FA Cup for Villa in 1905. How many clubs are captained by a player with such a special connection to the fan-base?
I can answer that for you, zero.
In the past, it was more common for players to represent their own clubs; playing out their careers with the same loyalty and belonging as any fan on the terrace. This creates a special connection between the fans and the players, as from the ankles up, they are indistinguishable. Jack embodies this, albeit from the calf up, and he is a flashback to this bygone and better age.
We did not dream of winning the FA cup final, we dreamed of winning the FA cup final for Aston Villa. This difference is glossed over in the glory hunting, cash-plagued state of modern football, as many simply do not understand it. Jack does:
This Tweet leads me onto two very important realities: Aston Villa are still in the Premier League because of Jack, and we are his club. He is not going to pull the pathetic sulk that Daniel Levy tried to instigate in previous years with deliberately undervalued bids for our hero. This technique did not work when Villa were on the edge of bankruptcy and in the Championship, it certainly will not work now that we are the 5th richest club in English football and a Premier League one at that.
Jack is worth whatever we value him at.
If a club wants Jack Grealish, then it is OUR valuation of him that they must meet, not the uninformed figure that MajesticMartial or any other of Saudi Arabia’s finest Twitter accounts come up with.
So the question is simple, for what price can Villa buy a unique talent with enough skill to keep us in the Premier League, who was a season ticket holder since he was four, an academy graduate and has a connection with the club that predates the First World War?
The latter part is just as important as the first; if not more. Us Villa fans love to point to the fact that we are a huge club; the founders of the football league with a magnificent history of success and the most beautiful stadium in the country. We are not just another soulless enterprise, a comma in the recent history of football transitioning from a working class sport into the playground of global capitalist superpowers. We’ve retained a sense of identity, and much of this stems from being both captained and managed by Villa fans. A monetary value cannot be applied to this, nor can it be applied to Jack.
Money did corrupt the connection between fans and players during the era of Randy Lerner. The American businessman placed his profits over anything else and asset stripped what was a well-performing team. £20 million for Downing, another £20 million for Milner, £16 million more and Young is gone, add £12 million onto the pile of cash and Gareth Barry is no longer a Villa player either. The most recent example would be the departure of Benteke, for roughly £40 million. This really is a hell of a lot of money, but did we ever manage to replace a single on of these players?
They were all vitally important to the football club. On the pitch, they made a huge difference to our fortunes and yet, this fortune was transferred form the field of play into a rich blokes back pocket. The simple fact is that replacing a star player is insurmountably more difficult than selling a star player.
Sometimes financial constraints take the decision out of the owners hands and a player has to be sold due to relegation or FFP… need I remind anyone that we stayed up and FFP has been cancelled by the combined efforts of Man City’s oil and a Chinese man with a taste for bat. FFP is dead, both legislatively suspended in a reaction to Covid 19 and permanently ruined in practice by a club with a passion for poisoning football with geopolitics and wealth.
Contractually, Jack Grealish is a Villa player until 2023 and it would take at least £120 million to bring me to the negotiating table. In a world where Harry Maguire is worth £85 million, this is only fair. I would not begrudge our captain if a huge offer came in, was for some reason accepted, and then he chose to leave. He has already done more for this club than any other player in my lifetime and he will be a legend either way.
I was going to write a piece about Jack and spray some superlatives about how he achieved legend status, and then I remembered that I did just this last year. If you want to read what is essentially an ode to Jack Grealish, then please follow the below link:
To Aston Villa, Jack Grealish is priceless.
By Callum Richardson – Twitter