Aston Villa wildcard’s Euro 2016 inclusion not an outrageous bet

Cockiness, arrogance and confidence are all unenviable qualities in nearly every walk of life, but in the cut-throat world of football they can set the great apart from the good, which bodes well for Aston Villa’s headline-grabbing youngster.

The fact Jack Grealish’s recent decision to pledge his international allegiance to England over the Republic of Ireland was deemed so contentious gives a hint about the exciting potential of the cocksure 20-year-old.

England managers don’t usually wade into the debate unless there is a genuine hope that young players will improve the nation’s fortune and, in this case, the loss does appear to be all Ireland’s.

Although his precociousness was well known to the Villans faithful, Grealish burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old last season en route to an FA Cup final appearance after orchestrating Liverpool’s Wembley demise.

Other than his slicked-back hair and old-school shinpad arrangement, definitive features such as his ability to glide past players, thread a pass, score a goal and generally spark Villa into life offensively, gave notice that a star was being born.

Having started the current campaign in similarly eye-catching (and defender-goading) fashion, it is now as short as 1/2 Grealish gets his first taste of Three Lions duty when Roy Hodgson names his next England squad for the remaining two Euro 2016 qualifiers.

This looks a fine wager despite the perception in some quarters that Grealish may have been foolhardy in his decision, given the plethora of potential number 10s Hodgson is already juggling to squeeze in.

Then again, it’s also arguable that in current form Grealish is a cut above some of those vying for attacking berths for next summer’s Euro finals in France – he certainly offers something slightly different at any rate.

Everton’s Ross Barkley is one name ahead of Grealish in the pecking order, but despite the growing maturity of his performances for club and country, the Toffees man doesn’t necessarily ghost pass players with such ease.

According to the stats bods over at Grealish completes an average of three dribbles per Premier League game compared to 2.3 for Barkley.

Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is played out wide for Manchester City and may not be such an incisive passer, though the former Liverpool star is untouchable in the pace department.

Adam Lallana may be the most similar in attributes to Grealish, though the player who was the heartbeat for Southampton has seen his pulse weaken in Liverpool red since, thanks largely to a spate of niggling injuries.

Historically, England manager’s like to arrive at major tournaments with an ace up their sleeve who is still a little under the radar, such as Theo Walcott famously and more recently Barkley, and currently Grealish has the wildcard spot nailed.

Injuries always alter the landscape nearer the time too, so backing ‘Our Jack’ at 5/1 to make Hodgson’s final Euro 2016 cut, could be one of the investments of the autumn.

Don’t forget you can have your say on whether you think Grealish made the correct decision about his international future on’ latest poll. Look out on social media, @Ladbrokes, for the result shortly.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.