Jack Grealish didn’t need Gazza haircut to play like him and justified inclusion

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Up until now the closest we'd come to Gazza had been Phil Foden's new haircut.

But Foden has been more of a red herring than a blonde bombshell, leaving Gareth Southgate no choice but to bow to public demand and throw Jack Grealish into the lion's den.

One sage took to social media to post the sarcastic message 'praise the lord', after hearing the news of his selection.

He had a point, considering it had taken a combination of some thoughtless thinking from Covidiot Mason Mount, and the threat of a suspension for Foden, for Southgate to take the plunge and trust Grealish to start his first Euros game.

The question now was, had Grealish been worth the wait?

England didn't need a lord, peoples' champion or some sort of unjustified folk hero though – just someone capable of adding some sparkle to a lacklustre attack. Someone capable of helping the Three Lions score more goals.

And if Grealish could produce a game as well as he talked one, then England would be laughing all the way to the top of Group D and a potential home run to the Final, quarter finals aside.

He had declared himself "fit, fearless and ready" to try to get "people off their seats."

Here was someone comfortable with comparisons to Paul Gascoigne for what he did on the pitch, not how he looked. Someone who didn't suffer nerves, despite wanting this chance all his life.

Grealish's inclusion even persuaded Prince William to travel to the game to watch his favourite Aston Villa star in action.

And the future king of England had to wait just 12 minutes to see the future king of English football make his mark, when his wonderful cross picked out Raheem Sterling at the back post for the opening goal.

Grealish was popping up all over the place, a Jack-in-a-box on acid, winning free kicks, producing surging runs and freeing up space for those around him.

His free role gave him a licence to kill, but he wanted to torture the Czechs first.

He made things happen and there was a buzz of anticipation each time he got the ball, just like there used to be when Gazza ruled the roost on this same stage. Along with Bukayo Saka, he brought this game to life.

Let's be clear, Grealish is no Gazza because there will never be another like the Geordie genius, but he's one heck of an impersonation when he wants to be.

Grealish admitted to not knowing what an encyclopaedia was recently, but when it comes to tormenting defences he appears to be the font of all knowledge.

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Grealish was so good he inspired parish priest turned TV star Rev Richard Coles to eulogise about him on social media, like he'd been heaven sent to the England team.

He hadn't, because he's been with them from the start, but Southgate has been reluctant to unleash him.

But with much bigger challenges now lurking ahead for the Three Lions, the chances are Southgate is going to need some divine intervention from somewhere – and Grealish could be the one to deliver it.

  • Euro 2020

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