Date: 16th February 2020 at 6:30am
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What a shambles! Only the Premier League could introduce a ‘mid-season break’ in early spring with 2/3 of the season already played, yet require clubs unfortunate enough not to win their FA Cup 4th round matches to schedule replays during the supposed ‘break’.

The only reason this nonsense has been constructed is so Sky and BT can show every Premier League match by dividing the matchweek across two weekends and stringing the second batch of games across four days, as is happening this weekend. Ridiculous.

Anyway, here we are and our Premier League campaign resumes against a slightly stuttering Tottenham no longer led by the man who took them to their first European Cup final only last summer, but by the erstwhile ‘Special One’ himself. Few could have predicted that when we opened our season at their (s)wanky new stadium back in August.

All that this preposterous ‘mid’ season suspension has achieved is to stoke up far-fetched transfer tittle-tattle, which we might reasonably have expected the recently closed transfer window to have put to bed at least until Euros kick off in June.

Chief among the nonsense to have dominated the back pages and social media is the idea that Jack Grealish is somehow Old Trafford-bound at the end of the season, irrespective of the division we might ourselves in next August.

Villa fans are working themselves into a lather because of unfounded claims that Manchester United are favourites to sign our talismanic skipper. For sure, he would be a fine addition to their frankly pedestrian squad, but he’d also grace any of England’s (and indeed Europe’s) top clubs, such is talent and still-to-be-fully realised potential.

United are fading force in domestic and European football. Despite their untold wealth and high-profile in the global game, successive disastrous managerial appointments and a criminal waste of money on unsuccessful transfers has left them light years behind their bitter foes from Anfield, and there is no realistic prospect of that changing anytime soon.

Will Jack really head into such a shambolic operation? I’m not convinced. He’d fare better at Manchester City, a ready-made replacement for the outgoing David Silva, or even Chelsea as the replacement for Eden Hazard they have yet to uncover. But the recent events at the Etihad, where City have been punished with Champions League expulsion for the next two seasons at least, make a move to east Manchester less likely.

Plenty on the forum and social media claim Jack needs to leave whatever happens in the summer in order to win trophies and achieve his undoubted potential – it’s not fair to keep him here. But why?

He is the big fish in a currently small(ish) pond. But he’s Villa through and through, and if we do survive by some miracle, what could be more enticing than leading YOUR club on the next stage of their journey back to where they belong?

Staying up and with another summer strengthening the squad, where there is no requirement to make a dozen new signings, the future at Villa Park is bright. Record ticket sales this season demonstrate that the fans are buying into the journey and staying up would allow us the financial room to aim higher in terms of who we might add to the squad. If the owners are prepared to show the level of their ambition by chasing big-name signings, there is no reason for Jack to seek success, medals and riches elsewhere.

He is still only 24 – were he three or four years older and still not and England regular, I could (reluctantly) understand the idea he might need to move on. But if we can consolidate this season and remain in the Premier League, the sky really is the limit for Jack and for Aston Villa.

Of course, if we go down, all bets are off and although I wouldn’t be surprised if he stuck around for one more year, no one could begrudge him a move away – who would want another year of being kicked around the Championship while the likes of James Maddison and Mason Mount are swanning around the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu in the Champions League?

We all know, however unpalatable the thought, that he is our insurance policy should the worst happen. But we might just wriggle out of needing to cash him in so with 13 games to go, he is still our player and will front up in every match to try and keep us up. If we could shelve all talk of him moving to pastures new and get behind him and the lads 110%, that would be great.

To paraphrase a wise man, do you want to bet against him?


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