The latest transfer rumor to hit Tottenham Hotspur involves Josh Onomah’s loan team. Aston Villa are in deep, deep trouble right now — an unpaid tax bill combined with the club’s billionaire Chinese owner’s failure to obtain funding has put the largest club in the Midlands on the brink of administration. They desperately needed to win promotion to the Premier League and the financial windfall that comes with it to prevent ruin, and now the future of the entire club is uncertain.
That reality means that, after coming a whisker from rejoining the top flight, Villa faces the prospect of selling their best talent in order to make ends meet. Today, Matt Law writes in the Telegraph that their home-grown young midfield star Jack Grealish is linked away from Villa, and that Spurs have put in a bid to purchase him. He is valued at £40m.
But who is Grealish? He’s 22, a utility midfielder, a Villa academy graduate, and has weird hair. He has 3 goals and 8 assists in 2300 minutes for Villa this season, and that’s basically after missing the entire first half of the season due to injury. Michael Caley’s stats have him #1 in the Championship in progressive runs/passes. He’s basically Villa’s Harry Kane, and it’s heartbreaking to Aston Villa supporters that he’s probably not going to be wearing claret and blue next season.
I watched a little Villa this year, but I mostly kept an eye on Onomah. So when SB Nation Villa blog 7500 to Holte’s managing editor James Rushton reached out to me, I hurriedly sent him some questions about Grealish and what he might add to a Tottenham side that’s looking for reinforcements in the midfield.
As an aside, 7500 to Holte is one of my absolute favorite SB Nation blogs, and they’ve been doing some excellent work covering Villa’s bonkers financial implosion. You really should go over there and check out their work.
CFC: You okay, buddy? We’re worried about you.
James Rushton: Honestly, Dustin - and the good folks at Carty Free, no. I’m not. I’ve actually considered which team I’d follow (note the use of language there, it’s not ‘support’ or ‘love’, but follow’) if Villa are cancelled (they probably won’t be, but someone has to plan this, right?). Things aren’t great. This is all stupid. This shouldn’t happen in football regardless of pro/rel. Screw the FA, the EFL, the Premier League and every other institution that allows random blokes to move in and buy football clubs without financial plans. Read more about it on 7500 to Holte and send me your best wishes. Didn’t think football could give my mental health such a kicking, but here we are.
What are Jack’s primary strengths as a footballer, and do you think they can immediately translate to a Champions League caliber Premier League team? Does he have any glaring weaknesses or areas that need improvement?
Jack’s a great all-round talent. He started off as a bit of a soft and flighty winger playing out on the left and cutting in. This was his position in most games, unless he was used as an out-and-out number 10 behind the striker. Funnily enough, he had a terrible injury at the start of last season that ruled him out until December. Ever since he has came back, he’s been all-action. Used as a 10, in a double-pivot and even as a deep lying playmaker, to various degrees of success. His main strength seems like it would be his ability to go on Paul Gascoigne-esque storming dribbles from box to box - but i’d honestly ask you to check out his passing ability. He’s got the skills to pull off every single pass in the book to perfection.
Now, his stats (in terms of goals and assists) aren’t pretty, but he’s played beyond that for Villa. He’s changed every single game that he has played in for us this season. He’s good. Extremely good. I cannot state that enough. He can tackle, he will track back, he will leave it all on the pitch, but that brings us on to weaknesses.
I do not think Jack Grealish has an attitude problem, but he can get frustrated when the result is beyond him. He’s been known to lead in with rough challenges, and get involved in fights on the pitch. He’s certainly not a walking red card, but I’d expect him to lose his cool on a few occasions. This is a direct result of his ability and the fact that he gets kicked across the park in the Championship because of it. He’s indefensible in this league on his day and referees don’t protect him too much. He’s downright hated by opposition fans, and for good reason. He’ll have a moan, have a fight and then win the game. He’s just got to carry on with his all-round game, continue improving on the intangibles and maintain his physique and fitness.
In your opinion, what’s Grealish’s best position, and where would you see him fitting in best at Spurs?
He’s cracking on the wing, but Jack is special when he’s charging ahead. He’s played as a 10 and a 8 for us, and I’d go with the latter. Position him deeper, let him link up with Dele Alli and Kane, and he’ll marshall that role for you. However, Spurs may think differently and try to see that Grealish succeeds Eriksen. He’s got the ability to do just that as well, but I love his blood-and-thunder attributes when tracking back, winning the ball and starting an attack.
Look, we hate to take advantage of your club in a time of crisis, especially after we sold you Alan Hutton. (Still sorry about that, by the way.) But someone’s going to, so it might as well be us. So two part question: a) How much will Villa want for Grealish, and b) knowing that you’re over a barrel and dealing with Daniel Levy, how much do you think he’ll actually go for?
No worries. It’s business and it’s soppy, but I’d rather Grealish go to Spurs than any other club bar Liverpool. He’ll learn well, and hey - if it doesn’t work out, Spurs won’t hold onto him and we could get him back one day. How much do we want for him? It’s flexible. Our owner seems intent on holding onto the club, getting loans (actual bank loans, not players) and selling assets to cover the bills. If that’s the case, I’d expect him to go for a fee of around £20 million. That doesn’t solve our issues, to be blunt, but it gives our owner breathing room. Personally, I’d love to see him go for £50 million - he’s not worth that, but who is worth the price they go for in this market? I’ll take the highest price that I can get. However, our situation is a bit bleak, I honestly think he could leave for a fee under £30 million and that is heartbreaking. Jack’s worth so much more to us than money.
As for Alan Hutton, he’s been our best left-back this season. Make of that what you will...
If you were given a choice and know that Grealish is going to be sold, what club would you ideally want him to go to, and why is that club Spurs?
Honestly, that club is Tottenham. They’d develop him right and it wouldn’t be a stepping stone for him. Spurs are a good football team on and off of the pitch and they do their fans proud, honestly. They foster young English talent and they have a good idea about how to play nice football. It’s perfect for him. Failing that, I’d love to see him at Liverpool, if not Villa.
Do you think Dele’s fashion sense might rub off on him to the extent that he cuts his hair and stops wearing those crazy low socks? Because boy howdy, this is a club of fashionistas with good hair and that ish just ain’t gonna fly, yano?
Yo, that’s not a good opinion at all. Jack’s a damn trendsetter.
He’s like a footballer you’d find on the back of a cigarette packet in the 50’s. Pomade stained hair, a jawline cut out of granite, socks rolled low, cuts and bruises all over. I’d take that any day. Also, he has these tiny little shin-pads. If he moves to Spurs, those will give you a heart-attack. Grealish, he’s an icon.
Thanks so much to James for answering my dumb questions about a player I barely know when it was pretty obvious that he was typing through his own tears. I can’t imagine. Check out 7500 to Holte, a fantastic blog about all things Villa, and if you’re into that kind of thing, say a prayer for the Villa fans in your life. They need it right now.