Steven Gerrard can step into Jack Grealish's shoes at Aston Villa

Aston Villa pinned their hopes on Jack Grealish but his old club have found the man to help them move on after he returned in Man City’s win… Steven Gerrard can handle the pressure and fill his shoes without kicking a ball

  • Jack Grealish returned to his former side for the first time since his £100m move
  • Aston Villa suffered a 2-1 league defeat to his new club Man City on Wednesday
  • The winger made an 88th-minute substitute appearance for Pep Guardiola’s side
  • New Villa boss Steven Gerrard took charge of his 195th game as a manager

After spending three seasons pinning their hopes on Jack Grealish, Aston Villa have finally found the man to help them move on – and he will never even kick a ball for the club.

With the Duke of Cambridge, a huge Villa fan, watching from the stands, Grealish returned to Villa Park on Wednesday for the first time since he moved to Manchester City and became British football’s first £100million player.

Grealish was restricted to an 88th minute substitute appearance as this was the first game he was available for since taking a knock playing for England last month. 

New boss Steven Gerrard (left) can replace Jack Grealish (right) as Aston Villa’s talisman

A huge Aston Villa fan, the Duke of Cambridge (front left) watched on as Grealish returned

Though he was booed by some of the home fans, others applauded. When Ruben Dias put City ahead midway through the first half, Grealish shared a joke with his fellow subs. Bernardo Silva’s second was the kind of goal Grealish used to score in front of the Holte End.

During his final three campaigns at Villa Park, encompassing promotion from the Championship and progress in the Premier League, Grealish’s reputation grew so quickly that Villa could no longer keep pace with him. When the local lad played, Villa relied too heavily on him. 

When he did not, their performance level dropped sharply.

In an attempt to compensate for his absence, Villa spent the Grealish money on three players – Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings – but new manager Steven Gerrard looks more capable than any of them of stepping into his shoes.

Grealish was restricted to an 88th-minute substitute appearance against his former side

As high as Grealish’s profile is now, he is no Gerrard. The 41-year-old captained both Liverpool and England, won the Champions League in 2005 and is a great of the Premier League era. 

As a post-Grealish figurehead for Villa fans to unite around, he is ideal.

Gerrard’s predecessor Dean Smith played a greater role than most in Grealish’s development and is far more experienced a manager than Gerrard, having worked in all four divisions and overseen nearly 550 games. 

Wednesday night’s encounter against Man City was only Gerrard’s 195th game as a manager

Wednesday’s encounter was Gerrard’s 195th as a boss, and his first defeat at Villa after winning his opening two fixtures.

Yet to most of the football world, Villa were about Grealish first, everyone else a distant second. With Gerrard at the helm, most of the external focus will be on a manager who, as he has pointed out, has been accustomed to scrutiny since he broke into the Liverpool team as an 18-year-old in November 1998.

Grealish knows more than most the pressure of being the hometown hero at one of the biggest clubs in the land. Luckily for Villa, their new manager understands it even better.

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