Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood has revealed his love-hate relationship with teenage winger Jack Grealish.
Sherwood’s mixed emotions towards the 19-year-old academy product stem from the fact that he has been making back-page and front-page headlines in recent months.
Grealish shone at Wembley in April as he helped Villa defeat Liverpool to reach their first FA Cup final in 15 years. But just a few days afterward he was photographed inhaling the popular legal high nitrous oxide on a night out.
He was on the wrong side of his manager again during the summer when more pictures emerged of him face down in the street while on holiday in Tenerife.
Grealish is in contention to make his first appearance of the season against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday after missing the start of the campaign with a hamstring injury. And Sherwood insists he will welcome the youngster back with open arms because he is a rare talent.
“I will back him 100 per cent, he is such a talented boy,” said Sherwood.
“I love him to death and I hate him at the same time! I want to nurture him to fulfil his full potential.
“He did annoy me in the summer, but he annoyed himself. Hopefully the penny has dropped with him.
“Young kids make mistakes. But they come through it. He is a one-off – and he is a one-off on the pitch. He has come through it and we need to move on now.”
Grealish made a goal-scoring return from his injury for Aston Villa’s under-21 team this week and is likely to go straight into the starting lineup against Palace.
Carles Gil also played in that game against Derby on Monday, and he too comes into the reckoning after an ankle problem.
Villa have beaten Bournemouth and lost to Manchester United so far this season in the Barclays Premier League, and Sherwood believes the return of Grealish and Gil could provide the creative spark that has been missing.
“That is what we need, we need Jack and Carles,” said Sherwood.
“It is unfortunate that two of the most creative players in the side have been injured at the same time. Now they are getting back to fitness, it will change us going forward.
“I think they could play together. If anyone watched them play for the under-21s, you can see they suit each other’s game. They pass the ball to each other and they enjoy each other’s company.